Make that five straight wins for the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm, who after piecing together four consecutive victories versus the first-place Ottawa 67’s to claim the franchise’s second J. Ross Robertson Cup championship in six years, kept up their winning ways Saturday, dumping the QMJHL representing Rouyn-Noranda Huskies by a 5-2 score in round robin action.
Here are five key takeaways from the matinee match:
Toropchenko steals the show
On a Storm squad brimming with big-name up-and-comers like Nick Suzuki of the Montreal Canadiens, Isaac Ratcliffe of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Nate Schnarr of the Arizona Coyotes, it was St. Louis Blues prospect Alexey Toropchenko who stole the show Saturday as he netted a natural hat-trick in the opening frame to give his squad a healthy 3-1 margin entering the first intermission. Toropchenko got it started by first catching Rouyn-Noranda rearguard Noah Dobson with a rare giveaway to cash in while shorthanded. The Moscow import then added his second of the game just over two minutes later as he buried it from the doorstep by a sprawling Samuel Harvey. He then sealed the deal with the eventual game winner when he capitalized on a breakaway chance with less than two minutes remaining in the initial period. In all, it was a bout of dominance from Toropchenko, who wrapped up the QMJHL playoffs with 19 points in 24 appearances.
Loss costs Huskies perfect record
While they ultimately ended the night on the wrong side of the scoreboard, the Huskies began with an early 1-0 lead thanks to a sneaky goal by centre Vincent Marleau that got by Storm netminder Anthony Popovich. Although early, the Huskies appeared to be on the path to victory again given their 13-0 playoff record in 2019 when scoring first. It was not to be though, as the Storm closed out the period with three goals of their own en route to an eventual victory. Saturday marked just the 12th time this year that the Huskies have lost in regulation, after going 59-8-0-1 during the regular season and with three of their four playoff losses coming in 60-minute games.
Familiar territory for Entwistle
After capturing the OHL title last season with the Hamilton Bulldogs, right-wing MacKenzie Entwistle is getting a second crack at claiming the Memorial Cup this spring as part of the Storm. That familiarity with the tournament may have played into his success Saturday, as the Chicago Blackhawks up-and-comer wrapped up the night with a pair of points, counting one goal and one assist, including the insurance marker after he cashed in on a pretty pass from Ratcliffe.
Suzuki silences opposition with late marker
The Huskies appeared to be getting their footing late in the middle frame, generating a handful of top-notch chances only to be denied by Popovich. But with 45 seconds remaining in the second frame, Suzuki completed a pretty two-one-one opportunity with blue-liner and Los Angeles Kings prospect Sean Durzi, tucking it into an open cage behind Harvey to build his squad’s lead to 5-2 and interrupt Rouyn-Noranda’s momentum.
Finally a victory
The Storm enter the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia carrying the ‘comeback kids’ moniker after upsetting the London Knights, Saginaw Spirit, and the 67’s in OHL playoff action, and now have one more big win in mind: capturing the franchise’s first CHL title. After coming up short in the club’s last five trips to the year-end celebration, including the most recent in 2014 when the Storm fell in the championship final to the Edmonton Oil Kings, Guelph is hopeful for a reversal of fortunes this year. There is little time for celebration, however, as the squad is back on the ice Sunday to take on the hosting Halifax Mooseheads.