Category Archives: NHL

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Guelph Storm Complete Historical Comeback, Crowned OHL Champions

GUELPH– Not many thought it was possible. If a team was given what the Guelph Storm had to endure this OHL Playoffs, the odds were slim. But the 2018-19 Guelph Storm isn’t just any other team. They epitomize perseverance, determination and conquering adversity on another pedestal. In three consecutive series, they experienced deficits. Two of those were on the brink of elimination.

But this pesky Guelph team never gave up. The Storm surged when their backs were against the wall. And now, they are on top of the Ontario Hockey League, claiming the J. Ross Robertson Cup for the fourth time in their franchise history by dethroning the Ottawa 67’s in six games.

“I can’t put this into words,” said Isaac Ratcliffe, who had two goals and two assists in the 8-3 rout of the Ottawa 67’s in Game 6. “The resiliency from this team is unbelievable, none that I haven’t seen before. I’ve never played for a team with this much skill, class and character.”
Guelph Storm Battled Adversity All Playoffs, Including Game 6 Against Ottawa

Every OHL season has its ups and downs. Whether it’s a slump during the regular season or being down in a playoff series, the adversity that a junior hockey team faces is integral in building character and toughness.

This is the Guelph Storm mantra. Against the Western Conference leading London Knights they were down 3-0. In the Western Conference Final against the Saginaw Spirit they were down 3-1. Finally, the OHL Championship presented its own challenges, as the Ottawa 67’s took a 2-0 series lead.

But the experience of coming back to win against London and Saginaw proved to be vital for Guelph. In the final four games of the OHL Championship, the Storm would outscore the 67’s 23 to 13. The final two games saw the Ottawa 67’s have early leads.

On the brink of elimination, Ottawa scored two goals to open Game 6, putting doubt and silence throughout Sleeman Centre. But the Storm players never wavered. After being outshot in the first period 13 to 12, Guelph began to surge in the second period, winning the puck battles and creating scoring chances. After the 67’s missed on two wide open nets to put the game out of reach, Guelph would score five unanswered goals, two of which came from their captain Isaac Ratcliffe, and one from Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki.

It is this belief in each other and the veteran leadership that enables the Storm to have success coming back from any deficit.

“We had a nice response in the second period,” said Burnett. “Being behind in two series helped us when we were down tonight. We stayed patient and we were able to find the puck to generate offence.”
 
The Storm Surges to Halifax for the Memorial Cup

Not only was Isaac Ratcliffe a pillar for this Storm team, but also the players Guelph acquired at the trade deadline. Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki, after acquiring him from the Owen Sound Attack, generated 42 points this postseason (16 goals, 26 assists). This earned the young forward the Wayne Gretzky Trophy for MVP of the OHL Playoffs.

Chicago Blackhawks prospect Mackenzie Entwistle, after being traded from the Hamilton Bulldogs, used his veteran leadership to be a pivotal asset for the Guelph Storm. Playing alongside Ratcliffe and Suzuki in Game 6, Entwistle was a +2 with one assist, adding to his seven goals and 14 assists for the entire postseason.

With Guelph’s fourth OHL Championship in franchise history, the team now prepares for its next challenge. The Memorial Cup, the holy grail of junior hockey, is up for grabs and the Storm will look to continue its hot streak playing alongside the best junior hockey teams in Canada. For these youngsters, it’s an opportunity to showcase their gifted offensive abilities on an even bigger stage.

“For me to have another chance to play for a Memorial Cup, I am so excited,” says Entwistle.
 
Two years ago, a championship seemed like an unattainable concept. But through hard work and a devoted ambition to be better, the sunny skies turned to clouds. And the clouds turned into a Storm that has now surged to the top of the Ontario Hockey League.

This team isn’t ready to give that up just yet.
The post Guelph Storm Complete Historical Comeback, Crowned OHL Champions appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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St. Louis Blues Prospect Alexei Toropchenko Shines for Guelph Storm

Alexei Toropchenko has taken notice of his drafted NHL team. Early Wednesday morning, the St. Louis Blues would secure a dramatic Game 7 victory over the Dallas Stars in double overtime. The 31-year-old Patrick Maroon would instantly become a hockey hero in St. Louis, scoring the goal that would send the Blues to the Western Conference Final.

695 miles away, at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph, Ontario, an investment into the St. Louis Blues future will be taking the ice. Blues prospect Alexei Toropchenko, has been the anchor for the Guelph Storm offence, scoring four goals the past two games in the OHL Championship Series. His two goals in Game 3 propelled the Guelph Storm to defeat the Ottawa 7-2, handing the 67’s their first loss of this OHL postseason.

And for Storm head coach George Burnett, it’s now a whole new series for his team, leading up to Game 4 at home.

“It was important for us to respond in Game 3,” said Storm coach George Burnett. “When we look at the tape from Games 1 and 2, particularly from Game 2 where we had a chance to win the hockey game, our energy was low. I thought our energy was high (Monday). We did get some bounces, but that comes with a lot of hard work.”
Alexei Toropchenko Keeps Legacy of Late Father Alive with Stellar Hockey
Before becoming a pivotal forward for the Guelph Storm, Alexei Toropchenko grew up in Russia. His Father, Leonid Toropchenko, played professional hockey in Russia and spent two seasons in Springfield and Cleveland, competing in the American Hockey League. Like his Dad, Alexei possessed deep aspirations of playing professional hockey. It is why he made the ultimate sacrifice to travel across the ocean to North America, when he got selected by the Guelph Storm, in order to make his hockey dreams become reality.

“I got a grasp of hockey in North America,” says Toropchenko. “Also, I have learned English, which is helpful. (Teammate and best friend Dimitri Samorukov) and I have English classes twice a week so now I understand more and can speak better.”

Life in North America was an adjustment for young Toropchenko. He had to adapt to the English language. Alexei was away from family, the people that provided him stability and support. The young forward’s ability to conquer personal adversity would be put to the test when Leonid passed away with a sudden heart attack. It was a loss that shook Alexei to the core, but it provided an opportunity for his Mom, Julia, to come be with him in Canada. Having his Mother close to Alexei was pivotal in his improved performance towards the end of last season. But as coach Burnett alludes, Toropchenko always exhibited sound hockey skills.

“His work and his compete and his hustle and willingness to block shots and cycle the puck and protect the puck, there are a lot of things that are good there,” affirms Burnett.  
Guelph Storm Offense Leading Comeback Charge in OHL Championship Series
With the win Monday night, the Guelph Storm are back in the OHL Championship Series. This pesky team has gelled with the offensive success of Alexei Toropchenko, along with Nick Suzuki, Isaac Ratcliffe and Mackenzie Entwistle, who each got two goals in Game 3. Toropchenko’s ability to create havoc in front of the net, as well as using his length and speed to create matchup problems, makes him an offensive force on the ice.

It is these qualities that attracted the St. Louis Blues to draft Toropchenko in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. In late 2018, a few months removed from his Father’s passing, young Alexei would sign his first NHL contract.

While his NHL affiliate St. Louis Blues are looking to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970, their young prospect Alexei Toropchenko is looking to tie the series in the OHL Championship. In back to back series, the Guelph Storm have come back from series deficits to win consecutive Game 7’s on the road. Their belief in themselves to have the ability to come back is felt throughout the locker room, particularly with Alexei Toropchenko.

With 17 goals and 26 assists for 43 points during the regular season, count on Alexei Toropchenko to provide more postseason magic, for a Guelph Storm team looking to etch themselves into the annals of junior hockey history.The post St. Louis Blues Prospect Alexei Toropchenko Shines for Guelph Storm appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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San Jose Sharks Prospect Sasha Chmelevski Relishing in OHL Final

OTTAWA– The Ottawa 67’s and San Jose Sharks have been on similar paths. While one organization may be junior and the professional, they share the common joy of competing in their respective postseasons. And since 2017, the Sharks have invested into young forward Sasha Chmelevski, drafting him and watching him develop with the 67’s. In Game 1 of the OHL Championship Series, Chmelevski was a star on the ice. He got the scoring going for Ottawa in the first period. He would eventually generate two goals, propelling the 67’s to a 7-2 victory over the Guelph Storm. Despite taking nine penalties, Chmelevski was ecstatic with his team’s ability to handle the pressure of playing in a Championship series.

“The best thing about this team is we always live in the present,” said Chmelevski after the game. “We did a good job responding to adversity. You don’t just win 13 games by accident.”
Chmelevski Has Showcased Offensive Abilities Since OHL Draft
Sasha Chmelevski isn’t your ordinary hockey story. He didn’t grow up in the snowy hills or frozen ponds of Canada. Instead, he was born in Huntington Beach, California, a place marked by sunny skies and surfing.

Growing up in California could present an obstacle to breaking into hockey. But not for Chmelevski. From early on, Sasha demonstrated tremendous ability to break out into the offensive zone. His stick handling and ability to control the puck are second to none, and from an early age, he showed an affinity to score goals. This is what attracted the Sarnia Sting to initially draft the young forward in the 2015 OHL Draft. But 29 games played with the Sting, Chmelevski struggled to adjust to the pace and physicality of the OHL. Only generating nine goals and eight assists, the Sting traded Chemlevski to the Ottawa 67’s.

A move that according to Sasha’s Father, Tal, made all the difference for the forward to become a prolific scorer in the league.

“Ah, Ottawa has been very good to us,” Tal said. “Sasha is having a blast here.”
Chmelevski Relishing Opportunity to Help Ottawa 67’s Win OHL Championship
It appears that the choice to draft Sasha Chmelevski has paid off for the San Jose Sharks. Last season, Chmelevski has a career-high 76 points for the 67’s (35 goals, 41 assists), earning him a chance to play six games for the Sharks’ AHL affiliate squad. This season was a mirror to last year, generating 35 goals and 40 assists in 56 games. Despite a slower start to the season, Ottawa 67’s coach Andre Tourigny has been impressed with Chmelevski’s development offensively and defensively.

“He’s not a fast starter, but this year he took over a little bit earlier,” said Tourigny. “It was in late November when he started getting the points like he is now.

“The big thing about Sasha is his best asset can be the worst enemy as well. His best asset, for me, is his competitiveness. You play ping pong with Sasha, and if he loses, he will want to fight. At the start of the year, he was pushing a lot to get points.”

When it has mattered most, Chmelevski has risen to the expectations. This postseason, where the Ottawa 67’s have gone a perfect 13-0 thus far, Sasha has eight goals and 17 assists in 23 games played. In Game 1 of the OHL Championship Series against the Storm, Chmelevski scored the game’s first goal and was an anchor on an Ottawa 67’s powerplay that generated four goals.

With his stellar play in the OHL Playoffs, Chmelevski will likely have a full-time role for the San Jose Sharks AHL team, the San Jose Barracuda. The San Jose Sharks are currently in the heart of the NHL Playoffs, looking to advance to their second Western Conference Final in four years. For Sasha Chmelevski, his sole focus is helping the Ottawa 67’s qualify to the CHL Memorial Cup in Halifax. And to emulate the performance of his current NHL team in the playoffs.

 The post San Jose Sharks Prospect Sasha Chmelevski Relishing in OHL Final appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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A Year After Tragedy, Maple Leafs Look to Avenge Game 7 Demons

It was like any ordinary day in Toronto. People going to work. Store owners opening their shops. The sun was shining. Spring was in the air.

Until it wasn’t. On the busy stretch of Yonge Street between Finch and Sheppard Avenues, a van would ram its way into the crowds at Mel Lastman Square. 10 were left dead, 16 more injured. For a city that is considered to be the beacon of the world for its diversity and security, Toronto was under attack. A senseless tragedy that would change the lives of those affected forever.

The world mourned for the losses of these innocent Toronto citizens. We saw the immense bravery and courage by Toronto first responders, in the face of violence and terror. And just like one year ago, Torontonians can escape their present struggles to cheer and support an entity greater than ourselves.

That is of course, Ontario’s capital team, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Toronto Maple Leafs Provided Anchor of Hope for a City in Despair
Sports has been entrenched in our cultures for generations. Not only are we captivated by the brilliance of athletes in their respective sports, but more so by the game’s ability to heal and unite us in the face of adversity.

Hockey has enthralled millions of Canadians since the dawn of Canada’s confederation. As supporters of the Toronto Maple Leafs, fans understand that their blind love and faith towards this franchise can be considered idealistic. But this is sports. Hockey and the Maple Leafs have shaped the identity of this city, desperately hoping for success since 1967.

The Yonge Street tragedy occurred on the morning of the Maple Leafs’ Game 6 match-up against the Boston Bruins. The Leafs were down 3-2, needing to win on home ice to force a Game 7. In the chaos that unfolded at Mel Lastman Square, hockey took a temporary back seat. The primary focus was the safety and security of a city in crisis.

But as the minutes turned to hours after the attack, the emotional spirit became locked together to support Toronto’s premier hockey team that night. All of Scotiabank Arena had a moment of silence in memory of the victims who lost their lives during the attack. And with the entire city glued to the game, the Maple Leafs put on an inspiring performance. Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen made 32 saves. They were all over their arch-nemesis Boston Bruins, winning 3-1 to force a Game 7. It was a victory for Toronto, a city looking for a spark of hope in the midst of dark sorrow.

“We’re sending all our love,” said Leafs forward Mitch Marner, who scored the winning goal and added an assist. “It’s happening too often now, these things. It sucks. This world’s made for loving each other and making each other better.

“This is a big win for us after an emotional day.”
Toronto Maple Leafs Look to Win First Playoff Series on Tragedy’s One-Year Anniversary
As a student attending the University of Toronto, I could hear the piercing sounds of sirens that fateful April morning. Little did I realize that the city’s history would change forever by tragic events that occurred 14 kilometres away.

One year later, the loss still stings those individuals affected by the tragedy. Ceremonies, vigils and flowers are being organized throughout the city, honouring those innocent citizens who died. And similarly to a year ago, there is a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game tonight. Only this time, it’s a do-or-die Game 7 against the Boston Bruins, with the Leafs looking to win its first playoff series since 2004.

Recent history is not kind to the Maple Leafs when it comes to Game 7’s. Particularly against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. In 2013, up 4-1 in the third period, the Leafs would lose 5-4 in OT. Last year, Toronto was up 4-3 heading to the final period, only to give up four unanswered goals to the big bad Bruins.

But the past is meaningless. Looking backwards is counterproductive. The Maple Leafs are much more improved this year, with the additions of star forward John Tavares and defenseman Jake Muzzin. Through six games, the Leafs are outscoring the Bruins on even strength 11 to 8. With Toronto’s 12-11 record in Game 7’s put to the test tonight, Mike Babcock is preaching a similar message ahead of this historic game.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to be better tomorrow,” says Babcock. “It is an opportunity for our hockey club. We look forward to it.

One year later, Mel Lastman Square, once a place of horror and destruction, is now a sacred gathering spot for peace and reflection. Life is never to be treated so cheaply and for granted.

The rest of the world watched how our city lived up to the “Toronto Strong” persona. Disaster builds strength. And in tremendous hardship, we turn to hockey as the avenue for healing and conquering adversity.

Toronto fans will once again gather with a ferocious spirit, cheering on their beloved Maple Leafs. The city may never be the same, but our hearts will be with those victims today and always.

And our love and passion for the game of hockey will always live on.The post A Year After Tragedy, Maple Leafs Look to Avenge Game 7 Demons appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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