With the Knights leading 3-2 heading into the third period, Londoner Isaac Ratcliffe scored back-to-back goals to give Guelph a lead they would never give up.
The Storm became just the fifth team in Ontario Hockey League history to come back from a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game series, joining the Windsor Spitfires — who have done it twice — the Peterborough Petes and the Ottawa 67’s.
Ratcliffe ended the game with two goals and an assist for the Storm. Fellow Londoner Nick Suzuki had a goal and two assists, giving him 13 points in the last five games the Knights and the Storm played. Suzuki was named the OHL’s Player of the Week prior to Game 7.
London had built their 3-1 lead in the game, scoring three goals in a span of 2:54 early in the second period, after Guelph had scored the only goal of the first period.
Two posts and a crossbar were hit before the game’s first goal was scored. Isaac Ratcliffe of the Storm and Adam Boqvist of the Knights pinged pucks off posts at either end of the ice and Guelph’s Domenico Commisso rung a shot off the crossbar in the first ten minutes of the opening period.
On Tuesday night at the Budweiser Gardens, Guelph led 1-0 after the first on a Dmitri Samorukov marker. The Knights answered back at the start of the second as they built a 3-1 lead before the stanza was 4 minutes old. Down a pair, Nick Suzuki cut the lead to one with his 10th of the series on the powerplay.
Oilers prospect Dmitri Samorukov was the first play to put a puck to the back of a net. The Storm defenceman kept a puck in at the London blue line, slithered into the slot and fired a shot past Jordan Kooy at 16:40 to give Guelph a 1-0 lead.
Alex Formenton tied the game 1-1 on a Knights power play that sparked three London goals in a span of two minutes and 54 seconds.
3rd Period-6, Guelph, Ratcliffe 4 (Suzuki), 2:49. 7, Guelph, Ratcliffe 5 (Durzi), 3:59. 8, Guelph, Entwistle 4 (Ratcliffe, Durzi), 6:30. 9, Guelph, Entwistle 5 (Suzuki), 15:38 (EN). Penalties-Commisso Gue (roughing), 15:13; Formenton Ldn (roughing), 15:13; Keane Ldn (slashing), 18:07.
Formenton tapped in a puck that was slapped wide by Evan Bouchard, bounced off the end boards, off Guelph goalie Anthony Popovich and right to Formenton’s stick just 33 seconds into the second period.
Connor McMichael brought the puck across the Storm blue line on a 3-on-1 and snapped a shot over the shoulder of Popovich at the 2:23 mark of period two.
Just 1:14 after that, London’s Will Lochead rifled a puck at the Guelph net that was tipped into the top corner by Liam Foudy to give the Knights a 3-1 lead.
Londoner Nick Suzuki got the Storm to within one on a Guelph power play at 6:59 of the second as he snapped a shot into the Knight net and the rest of the period played out from there, pushing the teams into the third period with London ahead 3-2.
Isaac Ratcliffe tied the game right off a faceoff in the London end at 2:54 of the third and then put Guelph ahead just one minute and ten seconds later on a pretty feed from Mackenzie Entwhistle.
Guelph trailed London 3-0 in the best-of-seven before reeling off four straight wins to advance to the Western Conference final against the Saginaw Spirit.
Entwhistle jammed a puck in at the side of the London net at 6:30 to make it 5-3 and then he finished the scoring into an empty net with just over four minutes remaining.
As a puck rolled down the ice for an icing call against London early in the third period, the Knights tried to make a change to get Billy Moskal out to take a defensive zone faceoff. Mackenzie Entwhistle of Guelph alerted the officials and they sent Moskal back to the bench. Nick Suzuki won the draw and Isaac Ratcliffe scored to tie the game, giving the Storm a burst of momentum that they turned into two more goals in short order.
The Guelph Storm will meet the Saginaw Spirit in a series that will start at the Dow Event Center on April 18. Saginaw knocked out Sault Ste. Marie in six games in the second round.
In the Eastern Conference, the Ottawa 67’s will host the Oshawa Generals. Oshawa upset the number-two seeded Niagara Ice Dogs in six games. Ottawa has gone a perfect 8-0 through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Guelph Storm players MacKenzie Entwistle, left, and Nick Suzuki jump for joy after Entwistle's empty net goal cemented a 6-3 Game 7 victory over the London Knights in London on Tuesday April 16, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press
Guelph GM/coach Geore Burnett, a former Knight, pulled aside his two Londoners – Storm captain Isaac Ratcliffe and star centre Nick Suzuki – and told them to decide how they wanted to be viewed this summer.
With the talent they have in the London organization and the fans they have here, this is what wed be coming home to when its over, said Ratcliffe, a Jr. Knights grad. George asked, Do we want to go home being losers or go home being winners? It gave us a little motivation, we both gave it our all and luckily, we came out on the good side.
They were the two best two players in the Storms stunning 6-3 rally to eliminate their hometown team before 9,009 Tuesday at Budweiser Gardens. The Knights, who suffered the biggest collapse in their proud history with the reverse sweep in the second round, had no answer for them.
Ratcliffe, quiet the first five games, scored the tying and winning tally in Guelphs four-goal third period. Suzuki racked up a goal and two assists, was plus-5 and finished with a series-best 13 points.
The Canadiens prospect was clearly the missing piece Guelph needed from Owen Sound at the OHLs trade deadline.
We have to give them a lot of credit, said Knights over-ager Will Lochead, who grew up with Ratcliffe and Suzuki. Theyre one of five teams (in OHL lore) to come back from down 0-3. Its incredible what they did. All our players can learn from this. You can never really take the foot off the gas when youre up (in a game or a series).
The Knights, up 3-2 thanks to an early second-period blitz, lost just four times this season when leading after 40 minutes. Three of those defeats came against Guelph.
The first three games (of the series), we got the upper hand with the hockey gods in our favour, Lochead said, then the next four, they did. You have to give Isaac, Nick, (Nate) Schnarr and (MacKenzie) Entwistle a lot of credit. Those four are quite the powerhouse (up front).
A lot of the guys in our room are pretty choked up. For the older guys (like Evan Bouchard and Alex Formenton), its tough. You have to say goodbye to a lot of great friends.
London Knights players react to 6-3 loss to the Guelph Storm in London, Ont. on Tuesday April 16, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network
Guelph Storm players MacKenzie Entwistle (left) and Nick Suzuki jump for joy after Entwistle's empty net goal cemented a 6-3 victory over the London Knights in London, Ont. on Tuesday April 16, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network
Guelph Storm captain Isaac Ratcliffe was all smiles after teammate MacKenzie Entwistle scored to put the team up 5-3 against the London Knights during the thirdperiod of their game in London, Ont. on Tuesday April 16, 2019. Knights players left to right are Liam Foudy, Jordan Kooy, William Lochead, Billy Moskal, and Alec Regula.Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network
London Knights goalie Jordan Kooy watches the play over the tangled mess that is teammate Paul Cotter and MacKenzie Entwistle of the Guelph Storm during the second period of game seven in their playoff series on Tuesday April 16, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press
Liam Hawel of the Guelph Storm crashes into London Knights goalie Jordan Kooy during the second period of game seven in their playoff series on Tuesday April 16, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press
London Knight goalie Jordan Kooy makes a perfect catch even while screened by Liam Hawel of the Guelph Storm during the first period of game seven in their playoff series on Tuesday April 16, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press
London Knight William Lochead lands on his target after crushing MacKenzie Entwistle of the Guelph Storm during the first period of game seven in their playoff series on Tuesday April 16, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press
Nick Suzuki celebrates his goal with Guelph Storm teammates Dimitri Samorukov, left, and Isaac Ratcliffe during the second period of game seven in their playoff series on Tuesday April 16, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press
WRONG TURN: No one said it was going to be easy, but the Knights missed their golden opportunities in Games 4 and 5.
They couldnt find the equalizer in Guelph last Wednesday and then went 0-for-7 on what had been a potent power play back home Friday.
Game 4, we liked the analytics from it, London assistant coach Dylan Hunter said. We just couldnt close it out. When you cant close a good team, they storm right back and did what they did. That Game 5, we couldnt put one in. We had some kicks at it and couldnt get it done.
They adjusted, started dumping the puck in more and overloading on us. It was hard for us to handle.
The Knights biggest problem was offensive consistency. Most of their goals came from the power play and the blue-line.
They scored seven times in back-to-back games early, but Guelph goalie Anthony Popovich righted himself. The Knights never found more than three goals in a contest again.
You put everything you have into it every day, Hunter said. When youre that close and lose a Game 7, it hurts. Its hard for them to know they left everything out there and didnt win. We had a good year but its not the way we wanted it to go.
Fifteen years ago, Dylan Hunter was on a Knights team that lost a third-round Game 7 to Guelph, interestingly by the same 6-3 score in London. The Storm went on to win the OHL championship.
I told them about my experience, he said. We came back and won the Memorial Cup (in 2005). We had a little fire. Its the same thing. Its what you have to do.
Tough loss for our @GoLondonKnights, but they competed extremely hard, and will be a force next year with many returning players. #LdnOnt should be proud. Congratulations to @Storm_City and…. yes, @CamGuthrie. Ill await the delivery of my jersey.
PIVOTAL DRAW: On paper, the Knights won more faceoffs than Guelph did in Game 7, but they lost the most important ones.
Up a goal early in the third, the Knights were caught for icing and tried to make a quick change to put Billy Moskal out for the defensive-zone draw. Entwistle and a couple of alert Storm players complained that he wasnt an eligible player.
We saw Moskal come on and said, Wait, (Paul) Cotter just took the draw. Theres no way he got off for that. We talked to the linesman and he said he didnt see it, but his other (officials) helped him out. That was a pretty big moment.
Suzuki beat Cotter on the ensuing faceoff, Ratcliffe fired home the tying goal and the Knights never did regain momentum.
We have 15 guys who could move on and we didnt want to go home, Suzuki said. It was a character win. Its probably more special being from London. There are a ton of memories here.
RARE OCCASION: According to junior hockey statistician Geoffrey Brandow, the Knights are the 12th OHL team in the last 32 years to lead a series 3-0 and end up in a Game 7. They will go down in infamy as one of five teams who couldnt finish their foes.
The Petes did it to Kingston in 2014, Memorial Cup champ Windsor toppled Kitchener in 10, the Spitfires tripped up the Sault in 05 (before losing to London in Round 2) and Ottawa beat Oshawa in 1988.
London had previously staved off a comeback with a Game 7 win three times – against the Guelph Platers in 1989, against Erie in 98 and, most recently, in 07 against the Soo Greyhounds.
This was the first time they lost four straight in a seven-game series. It was also their first four-game losing streak all season.
AROUND THE RINK: The Storm scored the opening goal. The team that scored first won all but the sixth game, when the Knights got on the board initially . . . The Canada-United States matchup at the next world junior hockey championships just got more interesting. Scott Sandelin, the coach of back-to-back NCAA champion University of Minnesota-Duluth, has been named coach of the U.S. world junior team. So it will be one of the top minds in the college ranks against Canadian boss Dale Hunter, one of junior hockeys most successful coaches . . . The Knights are now 8-9-1 all-time in Game 7s and 4-5 since the Hunters took over in 2000. The Storm are 3-2 and hadnt played one since their victory in 2004 at London . . . Former Storm star Drew Doughty and ex-Knights captain Danny Syvret watched the game together in a Budweiser Gardens suite. Doughty is from London and Syvret, who lives here, grew up a half-hour from Guelph in Millgrove . . . Suzuki was named the Canadian Hockey Leagues player of the week for five goals and 10 points in four games against the Knights . . . Bouchard led London with 11 points in seven games. Liam Foudy had a team-best five goals.