by Matt Pelkey
It was a bittersweet Sunday afternoon in Guelph.
Guelph Storm forward Robby Fabbri returned to the lineup after missing 32 games while defenceman Zac Leslie suited up for his final OHL game as the Storm (34-23-2-2) won their seventh consecutive home game against the Kitchener Rangers (27-21-3-7) by a score of 3-1 at the Sleeman Centre.
The game was also Leslie’s 250th of his career. The Los Angeles Kings prospect, scheduled to have season-ending shoulder surgery this week, finished his OHL career with 155 points (39+116=155). He ranks fifth on the Storm’s all-time list for points by a defenceman.
Scoring for Guelph in the game were Phil Baltisberger, Tyler Boston, and Pius Suter, while Justin Nichols made 32 saves in the win.
For Kitchener, Ryan MacInnis had the lone marker and Jake Paterson stopped 30 shots in the loss.
Before the game began, a pre-game ceremony took place that honoured Leslie. The ceremony reflected on Zac’s OHL career and included a video tribute.
Once the game started and after being outshot midway through the opening frame, the Storm would score the game’s first goal.
Killing their first penalty of the game, Fabbri danced into the Rangers zone with the puck. After some nifty stickwork, he fed the puck to a trailing Baltisberger who slapped the puck into the top left corner past Paterson.
The goal was Guelph’s 12th shorthanded tally of the season, good enough for third place in the league.
With an assist on the goal, Fabbri extended his point streak to four games.
Under four minutes later, Boston potted his 10th goal and third in his last four games just as a Storm penalty expired. Boston paid the price in the crease, fighting off a number of checks from Rangers defenders, before banging in the puck to give his team a two-goal lead.
Barely over a minute later, Kitchener would make it a one-goal game again. The Rangers’ leading scorer, MacInnis scored from the slot with a wrist shot that beat Nichols low to the blocker side.
The Storm took a 2-1 lead to the first intermission while being outshot 15-9.
In the middle period, it became obvious the home team was trying to get one for their veteran defender, Leslie, in his final game.
Leslie’s teammates continuously tried setting up the overage defender for a goal, but the post had different plans. The Ottawa, Ontario native hit two posts on back-to-back opportunities on the power play.
Despite some great opportunities, Guelph couldn’t extend their lead as they took the same 2-1 lead into the second intermission. Kitchener continued to lead in shots, 25-23.
Heading into the game, the Storm owned a 17-2-0-1 record when leading after two periods.
The final and deciding frame was much like the second period.
Back and forth, end-to-end action saw each team with chances to get the game’s next goal.
The Rangers had the edge in quality opportunities, but Nichols stood tall and answered the bell every time the Highway 7 rival Rangers tried to tie the contest.
The Storm netminder made a series of key saves on consecutive threatening shots at the midway mark of the period to keep the one-goal lead.
Then, with 1:02 remaining and Paterson on the bench for an extra attacker, Suter added the empty-net goal to secure a 3-1 victory for Guelph.
Guelph has now outscored Kitchener 34-9 on their current seven-game home win streak.
Final shots were 33-32 in favour of Kitchener.
The Storm improve to 19-8-2-1 on home ice, while the Rangers fall to 8-15-2-4 on the road.
Guelph is back in action on Friday when they welcome the Owen Sound Attack for a 7:30 PM puck drop.
– Storm defenceman Zac Leslie played in his 250th and final OHL game. The overage defender will have season-ending shoulder surgery this week. Leslie finished his OHL career amassing 19 points (6+13=19) in his final 20 games for a total of 155 (39+116=155) over his career.
– Tonight’s game was the 6th of 8 meetings between the Storm and Rangers. Kitchener currently leads the season series 3-2.
– Storm forward Robby Fabbri returned to the lineup after missing the last 32 games. Fabbri missed time while playing with Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships, where he also suffered a high ankle sprain.
– Robby Fabbri has points in 4 straight games, tallying 2 goals and 5 assists for 7 points.
– Guelph has won their last 7 games at home against Kitchener, outscoring them 34-9 over that span.
– Rangers forward Connor Bunnaman is a Guelph native.
Kitchener Rangers 1 at Guelph Storm 3 – Status: Final
Sunday, March 1, 2015 – Sleeman Centre
Kitchener 1 0 0 – 1
Guelph 2 0 1 – 3
1st Period-1, Guelph, Baltisberger 4 (Fabbri), 11:51 (SH). 2, Guelph, Boston 10 (Suter, Dickinson), 15:02. 3, Kitchener, MacInnis 22 (Robinson, Hora), 16:23. Penalties-served by Smith Gue (too many men), 10:22; Blaisdell Kit (tripping), 13:00; McEwan Gue (holding), 17:19; McEwan Gue (tripping), 19:22.
2nd Period– No Scoring.Penalties-Smith Gue (tripping), 2:09; Kohn Kit (tripping), 3:59; Iafrate Kit (interference), 6:22; Bertuzzi Gue (slashing), 8:48.
3rd Period-4, Guelph, Suter 34 18:58. Penalties-Sergeev Kit (holding), 0:43; Miller Kit (high sticking), 14:25.
Shots on Goal-Kitchener 15-10-8-33. Guelph 9-14-11-34.
Power Play Opportunities-Kitchener 0 / 5; Guelph 0 / 5.
Goalies-Kitchener, Paterson 22-18-1-2 (34 shots-31 saves). Guelph, Nichols 29-17-2-1 (33 shots-32 saves).
Referees-Ryan Carroll (9), Darryl Wolfe (6).
Linesmen-Dustin McCrank (68), Cory Piche (87).
3) KIT Ryan MacInnis – 1 goal
2) GUE Robby Fabbri – 1 assist
1) GUE Zac Leslie – 250th and final OHL game