The opening game of the playoffs turned into a disaster for the Guelph Storm as they dropped game 1 of their western conference quarter final series to the Owen Sound Attack by a score of 6-1 Friday night in front of 3,733 at the Sleeman Centre.
While the opening 20 minutes only saw some lacklustre play in their own end it would turn into a nightmare in all aspects of the game for the Storm over the final 40 minutes that saw a goaltender change and plenty of fisticuffs.
Guelph would attempt to set the tone in the early going with large hits by Tyler Bertuzzi, Phil Baltisberger and Givani Smith. Despite seemingly being in early control the Attack would open the scoring just 2:55 into the game when Jeffery Gillian picked up a rebound in front of Guelph starting netminder Justin Nichols and put it over his right shoulder for the 1-0 Attack lead.
A defensive lapse by Robby Fabbri later on would give Owen Sound a 2 on 1 advantage down low as Erik Bradford would put the puck past Nichols to give the Attack a 2-0 lead at 8:42.
Despite being down by a pair early Guelph continued strong physical play throughout the opening frame and seemingly held the puck in the Owen Sound zone most of the time as they would out shoot the Attack 11-7 in the first period but would still find themselves down 2-0 after 20.
The Storm briefly appeared to be back on track early into the middle stanza as captain Jason Dickinson fired a laser past Jack Flinn that would go off the post and into the net to cut the Owen Sound lead to 2-1 at 2:07.
Things however started to unravel soon after when Austin Hall took a very unnecessary delay of game penalty after the puck was thrown into the crowd. Damir Sharipzyanov would give the Attack a 3-1 lead on the ensuing power play at 5:08 as his low shot from the circle went through Nichols. After the goal that had a severe odour to it Nichols night was over as he allowed 3 goals on just 11 shots. Bradley Van Schubert would come into the game for his first career OHL playoff action. Van Schubert showed steady play for the balance of the second period in keeping the Storm in the game down 3-1 after 40 minutes.
Guelph’s play seemed to frustrate not just the crowd but those on the ice as well as Robby Fabbri took exception to some roughing at the second period buzzer, he would eventually have a spirited scrap with Santino Centorame.
Guelph while getting some power play time always seemed to be unable to take advantage, their opponents however would not make the same mistake. With Marc Stevens just four seconds away from finishing his roughing minor, Connor Walters would notch a power play tally at 5:18 of the third period to give Owen Sound a 4-1 advantage.
Things would only get worse as Van Schubert would eventually let in a real stinker of his own when Justin Brack would score from far out and no traffic at 7:22 to make it 5-1.
With the game well in hand for the Attack the Storm seemed close to a goal during a penalty kill when Robby Fabbri found himself alone in the slot but shockingly decided to pass it through an Attack player instead. Play resumed back to the Storm end where Daniel Milne would put a cap to the scoring at 12:21 giving Owen Sound their third power play goal of the night in a 6-1 victory.
Noah Carroll would attempt a fight with Jaden Lindo at 15:26 but officials stepped in to put a stop to it and hand out misconducts. The officials weren’t quite as quick to act at 19:39 when Marc Stevens and Ethan Szypula tangled.
In the end Attack starter Jack Flinn was solid making 30 saves on the night while Justin Nichols and Bradley Van Schubert only combined their totals for 19.
Game 2 of the best of seven conference quarter final will continue at the Sleeman Centre Sunday night with a 6:30PM start with Owen Sound leading the series 1-0.
The Storm last lost a playoff game at home during Game 2 of last years OHL Final losing 4-3 in overtime to the North Bay Battalion
Guelph’s last regulation home loss in the playoffs was Game 2 of last years conference semi final, a 7-2 defeat at the hands of the London Knights, a stretch of 7 games.
Guelph had won the 8 game regular season series with Owen Sound with a record of 5-2-0-1
Owen Sound’s power play was 3 for 5.
Guelph’s power play went 0 for 4.
Guelph and Owen Sound have met in 3 previous playoff series in 1995, 1999 and 2004.
Guelph won the most recent playoff series between the two clubs taking a 4-3 series win in the 2004 conference quarter finals.
Guelph last lost a series opener on March 22, 2013 when they lost 5-2 to host Kitchener eventually losing the series in five games.
Guelph was last held to just a single goal in a playoff game on March 25, 2013 in game 3 of their conference quarter final series with Plymouth during a 2-1 loss. 22 games ago (including Memorial Cup play)
Game’s 3 & 4 will be played in Owen Sound on Tuesday March 31 and Wednesday April 1