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Guelph Storm punch OHL ticket to the Memorial Cup (11 photos)

Guelph Storm downs the Ottawa 67's 8-3 to capture the OHL championship and earn a berth in the Memorial Cup

It was improbable. Damn near impossible. But somehow they did it.

A remarkable run through the OHL playoffs by the Guelph Storm came to a remarkable conclusion Sunday afternoon. The end result: an OHL championship.

The Storm rallied from a 2-0 deficit early in the game to down the Ottawa 67's 8-3 at the Sleeman Centre, winning the best-of-seven final in six games.

As the final horn sounded the Storm players erupted off the bench, sticks, helmets, gloves and mouthguards jettisoned towards the rafters, and the party was on.

Players, owners, team personnel, families, billets and just plain old regular fans found their way to the ice to celebrate.

Whoops of joy from the Storm dressing room could be heard 90 minutes after the game ended as the celebration moved behind closed doors.

"Holy Jesus," said a jubilant Storm captain Isaac Ratcliffe amidst the post-game chaos. "Four years later we're here. I can't believe we did it on home ice in front of our fans. They mean everything to us, we're so excited right now.

"It's indescribable. Looking around at all the fans sticking around to watch us hoist the cup. All our families sitting on the ice here. It's indescribable how good I feel right now."

"It's pretty awesome. I don't think anybody thought we'd be here after what we've been through the last two series," said goaltender Anthony Popovich. "It just feels amazing right now."

For three straight series the Storm lost the first two games before rallying to victory. They trailed games time and time again before coming back to win.

"It feels amazing. I've never been part of this before in my hockey career. It just shows the kind of group we have, which is the best group I've ever been part of," said Owen Lalonde.

The Storm now advances to the Memorial Cup in Halifax. Their first game is Saturday.

"We've got to enjoy this for a bit but there's something else out there that we're excited about having a crack at too, but we'll enjoy this tonight," Storm coach George Burnett said.

"It wasn't an 8-3 hockey game by any stretch, but it sure does feel good to come out on top," Burnett said.

Ottawa led 2-0 after one period and it looked like a trip back to Ottawa for Game 7 might be in the cards.

Not so quick.

The Storm scored five unanswered goals in a 15-minute span of the second period, two of them by Isaac Ratcliffe, to take control of the game.

Ottawa's Sasha Chmelevski  scored early in the third to make it a two-goal game, but the comeback wasn't happening on this day. Not against this team.

The key to the game might have been in the second period when Ottawa missed a couple of glorious chances with the score tied 2-2.

"We had two Grade A scoring chances and I think that was the turning point of the game," Ottawa coach Andre Tourigny said.

"We played the first 30 minutes really well, but they had a real big push back in the middle of the second period and from there we had a tough time to handle their one-on-one. They held onto the puck."

Tourigny said he was proud of his team's effort, the execution wasn't there at the right times.

"That's the name of the game," Tourigny said.

"Two really good teams and the margin between the two teams was really tight. It was tighter than the score showed tonight. We have a really special group of people."

Nick Suzuki, who had three points Sunday to bring his playoff total to 42 points in 24 games, was named playoff MVP.


Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 20 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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