From the Stands
By Paul Osborne
It will always be referred to as the one that got away.
The near perfect season that fell one game short on a warm, sunny May day in London.
The Guelph Storm were one win away from the franchise’s first Memorial Cup but lost 6-3 to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the final, and the team may never fully purge the bitter taste left in their mouths.
“(It will take) a long time,” admitted the Storm’s classy captain, Matt Finn.
“We played so well and did everything right to get here, and (Sunday) was just one of those nights where we couldn’t put the puck in the net. I thought we had our chances, but credit to Edmonton, they played a really strong game.”
The Storm won 71 games this season but needed number 72 to win the ring they had all been hoping for. Sunday wasn’t their best effort. They took a quick 1-0 lead, but then failed to score on two consecutive power plays. Edmonton scored twice with the extra man and that was the difference.
“They out-willed us and wanted it more” said coach Scott Walker. “For the most part I thought we were getting better (with each game). We talked all year about being a real good hockey team and you have to a great team to win (the Memorial Cup) and I thought we were going to come out and play our great game.”
But it failed to materialize.
That is why the Memorial Cup is so difficult to win. You can’t afford a sub-par game at the wrong time. Did the fact the Storm never faced the adversity of an elimination game all playoffs fail to prepare them for their big moment? It’s hard to say for sure.
“One game doesn’t define a season or a hockey team,” said an emotional Finn after the game.
“I think we were head and shoulders the best team in Canada this year and it came down to one game where we didn’t get the bounces. Throughout the round-robin and the (OHL) playoffs we showed everyone what this team was really about. It’s shame it turned out like this. Edmonton did a great job so credit to them but I’m so proud of the guys in our dressing room. They brought it every night this year. We had our ups and downs but we stuck together and it was the closest hockey team I have ever been a part of.”
This was a special group. Well managed, well coached and highly focused. They played with a tenacity and skill level that was admired by all observers. They had what it took to win the Cup, just not on the day it counted.
Veteran Zack Mitchell was asked whether it was too soon after the loss to look back and appreciate the season his team had enjoyed.
“Right now it’s a little tough, maybe in a couple of days we’ll look at it say it was a heck of a year,” said Mitchell who played his entire career with the Storm. “This was the best group of guys I’ve ever played with and there is no one I’d rather play (beside) but it was just a tough ending to a great year.”
It was a great year and a great team.
There will be four new banners hanging in the Sleeman Centre next year: Regular Season champion, Midwest Division champion, Western Conference champion and Ontario Hockey League champion.
The only one missing will be the one that has eluded this franchise on five separate occasions and this was the year they could almost picture it fluttering in the rafters.