FABBRI’S RETURN, LESLIE’S SEND-OFF, HEADLINE BUSY WEEK IN STORM CITY

The Guelph Storm beat their crosstown rival Kitchener Rangers on Sunday, 3-1, in a very spirited and defensive game. Any win against the Rangers is huge, but this game (and this win) was notable for many reasons. The Storm clinched their 23rd straight playoff berth, welcomed back a star player, and said goodbye to a long-serving defenseman all in the same week. And what an incredible week it was.

GUELPH CLINCHES 23rd STRAIGHT PLAYOFF BERTH

When I heard the Storm clinched a playoff berth after Sunday’s win, I took to their Wikipedia page to find out just how many consecutive seasons they’d qualified for playoff hockey. I knew it was a long time, but since I didn’t live in Guelph last year I hadn’t been around for the buzz the Storm made when they tied the active playoff appearances streak a season ago.

This season marks the 23 straight season the Storm have made the playoffs. That’s astounding when you think about it. In a league with so much roster turnover from year to year (or more specifically, every 2-4 years) it’s amazing to think they’ve gone through between 8-12 “cycles” without having one off season.

It’s even more considering what the other active streaks in the league are. London is the next closest in active consecutive playoff appearances with 15. After that you’ve got North Bay, with 13. And that’s it for double digits.

In a league where most casual fans talk London Knights when speaking to the most dominant OHL franchises, the Guelph Storm are slowly but surely cementing their status as OHL franchise royalty . The team will head to the playoffs once again, this time to defend their 2014/15 OHL Championship, and with an excellent young crop of players the end to their streak doesn’t seem to be anywhere in site.

ROBBY FABBRI BACK IN STORM LINEUP

It’s hard to believe it was over two months ago that we were watching the Canadian team snap their gold-medal drought at this year’s IIHF World Junior Championship.

One of the feel good stories for Storm fans this year was the emergence of sniper and NHL prospect Robby Fabbri on an international scale. Fabbri tallied a couple of goals and assists in Canada’s first game of the World Juniors tournament, earning Player of the Game honours and drawing a terrific amount of attention.

Fabbri was electric on a line with Portland’s Nic Petan and now-Sault. Ste Marie’s Nick Ritchie. Unfortunately, Fabbri’s tournament ended prematurely when he went down awkwardly in the offensive zone in Canada’s game quarterfinal game against Denmark on January 2nd.

The high-ankle sprain had sidelined Fabbri about 8 weeks until he returned to Guelph’s lineup on Sunday. Fabbri had himself a great game, tallying one assist and second star of the game honours, but his play was overshadowed in the third period when he was struck in the face by a Noah Carroll shot in the neutral zone. The St. Louis prospect went down immediately and was rushed off the ice to the dressing room. Fabbri did not return to the game and it was feared he may have broken a facial bone.

Fortunately, tweets began floating around from those associated with the Storm that Fabbri had not suffered any broken bones on the play, just “plenty of soreness”, as described by someone close to the team.

Fabbri has only skated in 23 games this season but has an impressive 39 points in this, his third season with the Storm.

ZAC LESLIE EARNS FIRST STAR HONOURS IN HIS FINAL GAME WITH STORM

After 3 first period goals in Sunday’s game against the Rangers, the team’s offences went cold the rest of the game. The score stayed deadlocked at 2-1 until Pius Suter sent a long wrister into an empty Rangers net to ice the game.

Guelph can credit the win to their amazing defensive play as a whole team, as the team went on lockdown over the final two periods even despite the absence of one of their top defenceman C.J. Garcia.

An integral catalyst in Sunday’s win was Zac Leslie, who played top minutes against the Rangers’ best all night long. And as I reflect on the season Zac Leslie has had to date, it’s hard to forget all of the times he’s been excellent defensively.

His offensive gifts spend lots of time in the spotlight, and rightly so – he tallied 48 points in 57 games this season, but it has been his defensive game that has arguably been his biggest contribution to the team this season. He has spent the entire season as the Storm coaches most reliable blueliner, and it’s because of games like Sunday’s that he’s earned this responsibility.

As many of you know by now, Leslie’s junior career finished on Sunday. He, and the Los Angeles Kings, have elected for Leslie to undergo surgery on his chronically injured shoulder. The surgery obviously ends his season, and since he is an overaged player, his career with the Storm.

A fixture with the Storm over 4 incredible seasons of junior, Leslie bows out as Guelph’s 5th leading scorer among defenceman with 155 points.

 

Joe Krizman
In 2013, Joe graduated from Queen's University with a degree in Physical and Health Education. During his years in school, he spent his summers off working with kids at a summer camp; an experience he credits as being highly influential in shaping who he is today. Joe followed up his university degree by moving out to Calgary for the 2013/14 hockey season, where he served as the Coordinator of Player Development & Recruitment for the Western Hockey League (WHL) in their head office. Having developed a love for major junior hockey with the WHL, he is excited to be getting involved with it again this season back in his hometown of Guelph. A self-proclaimed "sports enthusiast", Joe is thrilled about getting the opportunity to share his thoughts and sports insights in a new way.