High-scoring Storm rolled through OHL playoffs but lack experience at Memorial Cup
LONDON, Ont. — At the coaches’ news conference at the MasterCard Memorial Cup, a festival of false humility if ever there were one, Guelph Storm head coach Scott Walker did his best to downplay just how loaded, front to back, his powerhouse team is.
“I’m ... starting to get worried,” Walker said. “They’re (the other three coaches) all talking about their past experience at the Memorial Cup, and we haven’t been there for a while (2004).
“And I have never been there.’
Walker explained that, yes, the Storm rolled through the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, winning all four series in just over the minimum, but “don’t let the five-game series fool you.”
Presumably, no one should be fooled, either, by the Canadian Hockey League-high 340 regular-season goals the high-energy Storm scored, or the fact that Storm forwards finished first, second, third, fourth and sixth in the OHL scoring race. Or that forwards Kerby Rychel, Zack Mitchell, Robby Fabbri, Scott Kosmachuk and Jason Dickenson combined for 54 goals in 20 playoff games.
Derek Laxdal, head coach of the Edmonton Oil Kings, who face the Storm in the first tournament game for both teams at 2 p.m. MDT Saturday on Sportsnet, has likened Guelph to the Portland Winterhawks, the team Edmonton defeated in a dramatic seven-game series to decide the WHL championship.
On a one-season shot, that may be true. But the Winterhawks competed in the WHL final for four straight seasons, winning it once; the Storm were eliminated in the first round of the OHL playoffs for three straight seasons before all the pieces slotted for them this season.
“It’s been tough,” said Brock McGinn, 20, a left winger for the Storm for the last four seasons. “We’ve been building up to getting to this point, so it’s definitely relieving to get this far.”
At what point this season, or in the playoffs, did McGinn, a native of Fergus, Ont., and his teammates realize it was possible the Storm were, at last, a special team.
“I think from the first game in the (regular) season we knew we had a special team,” said McGinn, who produced 85 points (43 goals) in 2013-14. “Coming into camp, we just looked at everybody in the room and thought we could do something special.
“We’re just a hard-nosed team that uses our speed and forecheck really well. We’re a good team in both ends of the ice and we have a really good goalie (Justin Nichols) back there, who is our backbone pretty much.”
Asked how much they know about their first opponent, the Oil Kings, Rychel, son of former NHL player Warren Rychel (the Windsor Spitfires general manager), said the same thing all the players have said about their opponents: “Not much.”
“We did a little bit of video today. Obviously, they’re a structured team, they work pretty hard and they’ve got some stars and their goalie (Tristan Jarry) is world class, so we’re going to have to be ready.”
Rychel is an interesting case, an excellent player (34 goals, 56 assists) and the Spitfires captain whow as traded to Guelph in December by his own father, a move that gave him a chance to play for a championship team and sent a passel of draft picks to the retooling Spitfires.
Windsor was a powerhouse not so long ago, but they have been rebuilding since then, a middle-of-the-pack team.
Did Rychel, 19, see any comparisons between the Storm and those teams?
“The Windsor team, they had some all-stars — Taylor Hall, Ryan Ellis, Cam Fowler. I don’t really think we have that all-star guy. I think we just have a lot of really good players who are willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
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