Suzuki's Storm Continue To Surge
London Knights HockeyJohn Urban
Although the London Knights started their second round series in the driver’s seat, going up 3-0 over the Guelph Storm, there may appear to be a fight at the wheel after all. Wednesday night the Storm staved off elimination in Game #4 with a 4-3 win at the Sleeman Centre, thanks to a two-goal performance by Nate Schnarr and 39-saves out of goalie Anthony Popovich. Last night was Game #5 at Budweiser Gardens and again the Storm continued to swell prevailing 3-1, with a two-goal performance from Londoner Nick Suzuki and 35-saves from Popovich.
In the opening period of play, a poor clearance attempt by London cost them, as defenseman Sean Durzi kept the play alive at the blueline and directed the puck towards the net. A favourable bounce allowed Domenico Commisso to slide it under the stick of Jordan Kooy’s blocker side at the 9:44 mark. The Oakville, Ontario native now has 21 points including 8 goals over his 30 games of OHL playoff experience, 21 of those games with the Oshawa General prior to this season.
The Storm appeared like they were going to walk away with the first period into the locker room until the final minute. After a Billy Moskal clean win the draw to the glove side of Popovich, Cole Tymik tap passed to Alex Formenton who quickly riffled it blocker side. Despite the goal the Ottawa Senators prospect was frustrated with the loss pointed to special teams, “we need to capitalize more on the powerplay. Something we’re going to work on and we should be ready to go tomorrow.”
The game could have had a variety of different outcomes with the two squads going a combined 0/14 on the powerplay Friday night. As much as critics would point to a lack of execution, the true factors were the performances of the netminders Jordan Kooy and Anthony Popovich. “We’ll move a couple pieces around, but it’s more we got out guys and we trust in them. They’re great players and they’ll figure it out,” said Knights Assistant Coach Rick Steadman about his powerplay after going 0 for 7.
With 3 of the first 4 games in the series featuring 7+ goals, a scoreless second period set a different tone in the series. Although London should have scored, Guelph provided them five consecutive powerplays throughout the stanza. The lack of production on the powerplay would hurt the Knights early in the 3rd period. 3:59 into the final frame local product Nick Suzuki would find the puck in the legs of Knights Nathan Dunkley and fire a high-level snapshot past fellow Vegas Golden Knights draft pick Jordan Kooy. Domenico Commisso grabbed the secondary assist for his second point of the evening. “Probably most memorable moment here and last year it was a lot of fun playing them here. Our backs are against the wall, everyone stepped up and I was just lucky enough to get a couple goals,” stated Suzuki postgame. His empty net goal with 13 seconds left, seemed to boil out London, as they skated off the ice frustrated.
It’s incredible to think that only four teams in the entire history of the OHL have comeback from a 3-0 deficit in a playoff series, Guelph is not one of them. The first team to ever do it was the 1988 Ottawa 67’s, who completed what was thought to be the impossible at the time over the Oshawa Generals. The Windsor Spitfires accomplished the feat twice, once over Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2005 and again over the Kitchener Rangers in the 2010 Western Conference Finals. The last team to pull it off was the Peterborough Petes over the Kingston Frontenacs five seasons ago in 2014. The Storm still have a long way to go if they want to add their name to history, as London gets a third chance to eliminate Guelph tonight in Game #6 from the Sleeman Centre starting at 7pm.