Guelph wins 2004 OHL title

By Jason Ahrens

Guelph Storm win OHL title

The Guelph Storm are the 2004 OHL champions. The team was
led by the strong play of NHL draftees Dan Paille (Buffalo, 1st 2002), Cam
(New Jersey, 4th 2002), Jakub Koreis (Phoenix,
1st 2002), and Kevin Klein (Nashville, 2nd 2003).


A pair of undrafted players stole the show for the Storm in
their playoff run. Over-age center Marty St. Pierre took home the
playoff MVP hardware, but it could have just as easily been given to
18-year-old goalie Adam Dennis who followed up a strong regular season
with a great playoff.


Paille and Klein gained some revenge for their loss in the
World Junior Gold Medal game to the USA by knocking off three prominent
Americans from that team. After a tough round one which went the distance with
Owen Sound, the Storm swept the Plymouth Whalers in the second round, sending
OHL defenseman of the year James Wisniewski (Chicago, 5th
2002) home. In the third round the Storm took seven games to knock out Danny
(Carolina, 2nd 2003) and the top seeded London Knights.
The OHL final saw the Storm roll over Patrick O’Sullivan (Minnesota, 2nd
2003) and the Mississauga IceDogs in a four game sweep.


For Paille and St. Pierre, it is their second shot at a
Memorial Cup; they are the only two holdovers from the Storm team that hosted
the tournament in 2002. The fact that the Storm are going to the tournament
shouldn’t be a surprise, most people fully expected a Western Conference team
to represent the OHL, it was just a question of which one. The Sarnia Sting
were the early favorites to win the league and they did win their division but
were knocked off in the first round by the Erie Otters.  When the Columbus Blue Jackets returned Dan
to the Sting after Christmas it was hoped that the speedster would
help take the Sting all the way, but the team struggled in their own end with
an inexperienced defense corps and several undersized forwards.


The Storm and the Knights battled most of the season for the
top spot in the league, which the Knights ended up winning by seven points, setting
many records in the process. The 103 point season put up by the Storm was
nothing to sneeze at either, and even more impressive was the fact that they
did it without star sniper Dustin Brown who stuck with the L.A. Kings as
a teenager this season. The Storm are a veteran team, built for this one chance
at winning the Memorial Cup. They are a well-coached team with good size and
speed. They have strong goaltending, rely on basically four defensemen and use
three forward lines. In a tournament like the Memorial Cup, this lack of depth
shouldn’t hurt them, but they do play back to back games to close the
tournament round robin segment out and if they have to play back to back games
in the playoff round, that could be a factor in the third period. Here is a
look at how some of their key players stack up.


The second line of Guelph is led by power forward left
winger Paille. The Sabre draftee is 6’1” and just under 200 pounds. In the
annual coaches poll he was named best bodychecker and best defensive forward in
the Western Conference. He is a strong skater, loves to hit and has a good nose
for the net. He is very versatile and can be used in many roles, as he is very
responsible in his own end. In 22 playoff games, he had nine goals and nine
assists and tied for a team best +14. Paille has the ability to score goals in
bunches when he gets hot and can be a force down low. He plays the power play
and short handed and of course takes a regular shift.


His point total is impressive considering that he had no power
play goals and a relatively quiet series against London, scoring one empty net
goal and adding two assists in the seven game series. In that series he had
trouble establishing a forecheck against the Knights as he was often up against
the defense pair of Richmond and Marc Methot (Columbus, 6th
2003). Methot is one of the better defensive defensemen in the league and has
the skating ability and size to match up well against Paille. For the Storm to
do well in Kelowna, they will need the veteran Paille to have a big week. It
should be a great way for him to end his impressive junior career, two trips to
the Memorial Cup, two silver medals at the World Juniors for Team Canada, and a
Gold Medal in the Under 18 tournament.


The Storm’s first line and their power play is led by their
tiny center, St. Pierre. He was named the top over-age player in the OHL for
the past season. The 5’8”, 175-pound forward uses a long stick like diminutive
Tampa Bay Lightning star Martin St. Louis. St. Pierre doesn’t have the
skating ability of the Lightning star; he instead darts in and out of the play
and uses his great passing ability to keep teams at bay. He finished third in
OHL scoring in the regular season and he ran away with the playoff scoring
title, popping eight goals and 27 assists in the 22 games he played in. He is
like a ghost, you don’t notice him and then suddenly the puck is on his stick
and then it is in the back of the net. Teams will be advised to make sure that
they notice him in Kelowna. He is deadly on the power play and can make teams
pay when they are shorthanded.


Klein anchors the Storm defense corps. The Predator draftee
is 6’2” and 195 pounds. He was named best defensive defenseman in the OHL
Western Conference by the coaches. He is a good skater, had a wicked shot and
loves to hit. He loves to play and often plays around 30 minutes a game for
Guelph. The four-year veteran of the league ended up with 21 points in 22 games
and was +8 in the playoffs. Klein loves to throw open ice hits and has matured over
time in his timing of these hits. When he was younger he would often go for the
big hit and leave himself way out of position. He can still be hung out to dry
at times, but he keeps forwards very honest when they enter his zone. The right
handed shot likes to play the left point on the power play and has a great
one-timer and the Storm love to set him up for it. He buried five goals against
the Knights and their failure to adjust their penalty kill to cover him closer
was definitely a factor in their demise. He makes a good first pass and can
carry the puck out of his end on his own if he has to.


The third line of Guelph features two very good skaters and
hitters in Koreis and Janssen. Janssen was brought in at the trade deadline to
give the Storm some toughness and size for their playoff run. The right winger
is 6’0” tall and 215 pounds. One of the best fighters in the league, Janssen
can keep teams on their toes on the ice. He also excels at yapping; when the
whistle blows to stop play, his mouth kicks into high gear and he can get under
the skin of players. In the playoffs there is a lot less fighting and Janssen
had to reinvent himself as a checker rather than a scrapper. He ran into
penalty trouble against Owen Sound and against London. After taking three
rather foolish penalties in game three in London, he was benched for a stretch,
and when reinserted, he played far better hockey. Instead of trying to take the
head of his man, he stuck to just taking the man, and could be counted on to
finish his checks and skate hard every shift. His line constantly outplayed the
Knights line it was matched up against. If Janssen had a bit better touch
around the net, they would have outscored them as well. As it was, when he was
on the ice, the Knights defence would clutch their sticks a bit tighter and
hurry their passes, often resulting in icings or turnovers. Janssen finished
the playoffs with three goals and three assists, a team low minus two and 49
penalty minutes.


A key player in Storm run was versatile center Koreis. A big
man at 6’2” and 210 pounds, he has a nice set of hands, and a good set of
wheels to go with his frame. He scored eight goals and added 10 assists in the
playoffs. Koreis saw time on the power play and short-handed teams as well as
his usual role on the checking line. He is a good hitter and uses his body well
to protect the puck when he has it. His reach allows him to stickhandle
effectively when he has the puck. He did a good job on faceoffs in the
playoffs. He will probably see a lot of the top lines in the Memorial Cup and
how well he checks them will help determine how far Guelph goes.


No team can win in the playoffs without good goaltending and
the Storm received plenty of that from Dennis. Not overly big at 6’0” and 175
pounds, Dennis relies on good positioning and quick reflexes to keep the puck
out of the net. Against the Knights Dennis was named first star twice, second
star once, and third star once. Only once in the series did the high-powered
Knights offense make him look ordinary and that was in the third period of Game
6. Throughout the series, very few shots beat him cleanly; most of the goals he
gave up were of the deflected variety. He did a good job of handling the puck,
controlling his rebounds and he flashed a good glove more than once. He tended
to stay low and dare London to pick a top corner, but they were unable to. He
had an uncanny ability to shut the door when his team was trailing; preventing
London from getting the insurance goal they needed to put the game away. In
every game that the Storm won against London they trailed at some point. At
critical stages in games three and seven he stoned Knights sniper Corey
(Anaheim, 1st in 2003) on breakaways. Not even on the radar for
Central Scouting, Dennis is counting on his strong playoffs to catch the eye of
some NHL teams.


Other key members of the Storm to watch in the Memorial Cup
include speedy winger Ryan Callahan (13 playoff goals), big winger Brett
(13 playoff goals) and defenseman Daniel Girardi (nineteen
points in playoffs and a whole lot of ice time).