The Guelph Storm became only the fifth team in the history of the OHL to come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a series when they knocked off the London Knights.
It’s not like Guelph were the heavy favourite going into Round 2 and they only fell behind because they were unprepared against an opponent better than anticipated. They drew the London Knights, arguably the top formation in the OHL, along with the Ottawa 67’s.
After going down 2-0, many (including myself) were counting the Storm out. The hope then was that, with a few games left on the calendar of the Laval Rocket, Suzuki could start his professional career and get a taste of the Montreal Canadiens environment. After Guelph lost Game 3, and the team had allowed 17 goals to the Knights in three games, Suzuki joining the Rocket seemed even more likely.
But the Habs prospect decided that he wasn’t ending his Junior hockey days on a disappointing note. After some uninspired performances to start the series, Suzuki came to play in Game 4.
Guelph’s coaching staff fully gave him the reins. He was double-shifted, often coming out to face one of the top two lines of London, and was put back on the ice against the third line a minute later, and ended the night having participated in three of his team’s four goals, helping them pull off the victory.
In Game 5, Suzuki scored the game-winning goal. A pass was sent in his direction after Guelph entered the offensive zone, but wobbled past him. So he held the stick of the defender covering him, found the puck, and, in one swift motion, fired it above the goalie’s right shoulder.
He also added the insurance goal in an empty net later in the game.
Guelph still had to win two more games. So Suzuki elevated his play for a return to home ice in Game 6. He picked up three points and the night ended up being one of the best of his season. He scored another empty-netter, a secondary assist, and another assist on a pass to Sean Durzi from behind the net that displayed Suzuki’s talent for deception.
Watch how he has his shoulders pointed toward Isaac Ratcliffe on the half-wall before connecting with Durzi. Evan Bouchard fails to properly cut the passing lane as Suzuki gives him no indication as to where it truly is.
More than the scoring sequences, there were plenty of other great plays for the prospect.
He dangled the pants off of defenders. In the first sequence below, Suzuki, on a two-on-two, forces the opponent to go down by faking a shot, slides the puck underneath his stick, and gets the inside track to the net. In the play that follows, he puts the puck through the skates of Kevin Hancock — his partner with Owen Sound earlier in the season — then goes around a second defender to get to the net.
He also created shooting opportunities for himself with smart skating routes in the offensive zone, sneaking behind the play as a trailing option and circling back up to get lost in the coverage before descending deceptively to the slot.
Down 3-1 in Game 7 on London ice, Suzuki started the comeback with a one-timed bullet from the left faceoff circle. Guelph added four unanswered goals — two of which he had assists on — to pull off the improbable series win.
Suzuki now has 20 points in the playoffs. He sits tied for the most goals scored and second for total points. Eleven of those points were earned in the four-game win streak against the Knights, and his timely performance warranted his selection as the Canadian Hockey League player of the week.
Now, another challenge awaits the Storm in the Saginaw Spirit, who only finished three points back of London in the regular season and six ahead of Guelph. Suzuki will meet Owen Tippett on the ice, one of his teammates with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship.
Around the CHL
Suzuki isn’t the only one having done the unexpected in the playoffs. Allan McShane and the Oshawa Generals got rid of the well-balanced Niagara IceDogs in six games to move on to the third round. The team also went down 2-0, but immediately battled back to win the next four games. McShane recorded three points in the series.
For Joël Teasdale and Cole Fonstad, round two wasn’t as challenging. Their teams swept their opposition. Teasdale put up eight points, while Fonstad failed to write his name on the scoresheet in the series.
Scott Walford’s season is over after elimination at the hands of the Vancouver Giants. The Habs have until June 1 to sign him, and Jarret Tyszka as well.
Follow David (@RinksideView) on Twitter for daily prospect updates.
|Joël Teasdale||FA||LW||QMJHL||BLB / ROU||10||8||9||17|
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||OS / GUE||11||10||10||20|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||8||1||3||4|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||4||0||3||3|
CHL season to date
|Joël Teasdale||FA||LW||QMJHL||BLB / ROU||66||43||37||80|
|Nick Suzuki||2017||C/RW||OHL||OS / GUE||59||34||60||94|
|Cole Fonstad||2018||LW||WHL||Prince Albert||67||29||44||73|
|Josh Brook||2017||RD||WHL||Moose Jaw||59||16||59||75|
NCAA season to date
|Jack Gorniak||2018||LW||Big Ten||Wisconsin||37||4||11||15|
|Ryan Poehling||2017||C||NCHC||St. Cloud State||36||8||23||31|
|Jordan Harris||2018||LD||Hockey East||Northeastern||39||1||12||13|
Cayden Primeau season to date