Flyers 2017 second-round pick Isaac Ratcliffe and the Guelph Storm are headed to the Ontario Hockey League championship round. On Monday night, the Storm prevailed, 3-2, in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final against the Saginaw Spirit.
The Storm have been "Team Comeback" during the playoffs. After sweeping the Kitchener Rangers in the first round, Guelph overcame a three games to zero deficit to the London Knights in the second round. In the conference final, Guelph trailed Saginaw three games to one before winning three in a row. After blowing out Saginaw by a combined 9-1 count in Games 5 and 6, the Storm trailed early in Game 7 before St. Louis Blues prospect Alexey Toropchenko put Guelph ahead to stay in the second period.
Ratcliffe did not record a point in the final game of the Western Conference Final but fired five shots on goal. He took third-star honors in Game 6 with a pair of assists and three shots on goal.
A streak scorer who racked up 50 goals during the regular season, Ratcliffe was held quiet in the second round -- one assist in four games -- until Game 5. He then proceeded to rattle off 14 points (7g-7a) over his next nine games, including a five-game goal-scoring streak between Game 6 of the London series and Game 3 against Saginaw. All totaled, Ratcliffe has posted nine goals and 21 points through 18 playoff games heading into the Finals.
Guelph now faces a very tall task in the Final: slaying the mighty Ottawa 67's. During the regular season, Ottawa led the Ontario Hockey League with a 50-12-6 record. They've been even better in the playoffs, going a perfect 12-0 through the first three rounds and outscoring the opposition, 67-29.
There is a Flyers-related connection to the 67's rise. Back in Jan. 2016, a then-struggling Ottawa team realized that it needed to rebuild. Its best player, Travis Konecny, would not be back for the next season (he made his NHL debut with the Flyers during the 2016-17 season) but could fetch a huge return in a trade to a playoff-bound team that was looking to load up for the rest of the season.
Ottawa traded Konecny to the Sarnia Sting as the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade. In return, the 67's received a package of young players (including Sasha Chmelevski) and eight draft choices. The residuals from the trade have proven crucial three years later to the creation of a dominant squad.
The Finals are scheduled to begin on May 2 in Ottawa with the winner advancing to play for the prestigious Memorial Cup, held this year in Halifax, Nova Scotia.