The Ottawa 67’s kept their playoff undefeated streak alive on Saturday, defeating the Guelph Storm 4-3, giving them a 2-0 series lead in the OHL final.
After a strong opening period by Guelph, a second period surge by Ottawa supplied the 67’s a lead that was too much for the Storm to come back from.
Ottawa’s starting goaltender Michael DiPietro left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. DiPietro did not return to the game, and no timetable has been set for his return by the team.
The 67’s eliminated the initial 2-0 Guelph lead after Kyle Maksimovich knocked in an aerial puck for his seventh of the playoffs, just 1:31 into the second period. Hudson Wilson and Lucas Chiodo were credited with the assists.
The momentum would continue for Ottawa in the second frame as Tye Felhaber scored his fourteenth of the playoffs, 6:43 into the period, officially giving the 67’s their first lead of the game. Sasha Chmelevski would follow up with his ninth of the playoffs to increase the lead and allow Ottawa to close the period up 4-2.
The third period began with Alexey Toropchenko scoring his second of the game and eighth of the playoffs for the Guelph Storm 1:15 in, cutting the lead to 4-3.
Ottawa backup goaltender Cedrick Andree made a sprawling stick save late in the third period which brought the crowd to its feet and kept the game at 4-3. Andree would make another game-saving stop in the final two minutes of the third on a late Guelph Storm power play, again warranting another ovation from the fans.
“It was definitely pretty stressful,” said Andree on Dipietro leaving the game. “We got a great team and the boys really supported me throughout the game which helped out a lot.”
Ottawa 67’s Head Coach Andre Tourigny praised the play of his backup saying that they have two number one quality goaltenders. “Cedrick was the goalie with the most wins in the CHL before we made the trade for Michael,” said Tourigny. “He proved it again today the quality of goaltender he is. His worth ethic and the way he competes every day paid off at this time and point.”
Tourigny liked the way his 67’s team responded Guelph’s strong push in the third period. “We fought really hard,” said Tourigny. “It’s a really good team on the other side they played with desperation and we had to defend, I liked the way we defended.
“We had a lot of adversity, but the poise of our guys and the composure we had, I was really proud of them,” said Tourigny.
However the Guelph Storm are no strangers for being down 2-0 in these OHL playoffs. They were down by two games in their second round series to the London Knights, and also climbed back from behind two games in their third round matchup against the Saginaw Spirit.
“I think we’re going to approach it the same way as we approached game three in the last series,” said Guelph Storm’s Jack Hanley.
Storm Head Coach George Burnett said being down 2-0 in the OHL final doesn’t feel any different than the other series but also noted the concerns of their play against the 67’s.
“It feels pretty much the same,” said Burnett. “I think we need more guys on deck. We scored over 300 goals this year and we got a lot of guys that were a big part of that offense and aren’t getting chances, and that is a bigger concern than not scoring.”
“I don’t think we managed the puck with any thought or discipline and they made us pay big time,” said Burnett. “So we need a number of guys to elevate their game and get back to a level we are capable of playing at.”
Toropchenko opened the scoring in the first period for Guelph assisted by Pavel Gogolov and Sean Durzi 12:59 into the first period during the first power play of the game due to Ottawa 67’s Marco Rossi receiving a high-sticking minor.
Right wing Keegan Stevenson scored his second of the playoffs just 58 seconds later increasing the Storm’s lead by two with assists from MacKenzie Entwistle and Jack Hanley.
However minor penalties by Guelph’s Entwistle and winger Nate Schnarr provided the Ottawa 67s with a five-on-three power play opportunity which resulted in an Austen Keating one-timer from in front of the net at 19:40 of the first frame providing his second of the playoffs to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Ottawa 67’s outshot the Guelph Storm 41-36.
Game three will take place in Guelph on May. 6 at 7 p.m.