Guelph eliminates Prince Albert to prolong WHL drought

It’s all over for the Prince Albert Raiders.

Nick Suzuki had two goals and an assist as the Guelph Storm beat the WHL champion Raiders 5-2 on Tuesday, eliminating Prince Albert from the Memorial Cup.

Linemate Isaac Ratcliffe also scored and assisted on both Suzuki goals. Fedor Gordeev and Liam Hawel also found the back of the net for the OHL champion Storm (2-1) while Sean Durzi tacked on two helpers. Anthony Popovich made 19 saves.

Sean Montgomery and Dante Hannoun scored for the Raiders (0-3). Brayden Pachal had two assists as Ian Scott stopped 20 shots.

WHL champions have struggled in recent years at the Memorial Cup and this time around was no different.

The Raiders dropped three games in a row at the national major junior hockey championship to be sent home early.

Tuesday’s loss was the 13th in a row for the WHL at the four-team competition, dating back five tournaments.

Guelph’s Alexey Toropchenko checks Prince Albert’s Aliaksei Protas in the Storm’s win on Tuesday. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The last time the WHL champion won a contest was the 2015 semifinal, when the Kelowna Rockets beat the Quebec Remparts before falling to the Oshawa Generals in the final to start the streak of defeats.

Neither team had much going early until a turnover in the neutral zone midway through the period led to the game’s opening goal.

Suzuki picked up the puck near centre and skated over the blue line before sending a cross-ice pass to Gordeev, who beat Scott high blocker at 10:18.

The Raiders responded less than two minutes later when Montgomery deflected a Noah Gregor point shot through Popovich just eight seconds into a power play.

Ratcliffe got the better of Pachal in a battle between the captains to restore Guelph’s lead, toe-dragging around the Prince Albert defenceman before sliding a backhand between Scott’s legs at 15:18 of the first.

The Storm looked to be heading into the break up 2-1 only for Hannoun to tip one by Popovich with 44 seconds to go in the period.

Hawel snapped one glove side on Scott for a 3-2 advantage just 1:21 into the second, and Suzuki doubled the lead as he got in behind the defence and finished off a pass from Ratcliffe at 5:02.

Despite being down two and their season on the line, the Raiders weren’t showing the urgency they needed and didn’t get a shot on Popovich until 11 minutes into the period.

Suzuki put the game out of reach for good at 6:42 of the third when he banked the puck into the net off the back of Scott’s pad from the goal-line.

The host Halifax Mooseheads (2-0) play the Quebec league champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (1-1) on Wednesday to wrap up the round-robin portion of the tournament.

A Halifax win would send the Mooseheads directly to the final with a 3-0 record, while a Huskies victory would leave Halifax, Guelph and Rouyn-Noranda with 2-1 records and needing a tiebreaker to determine playoff seeding.