ST. CATHARINES — It’s been a while since Isaac Ratcliffe and Nick Suzuki wore the same jerseys.
A blockbuster trade earlier this week reunited the two on the Guelph Storm, something the two always hoped would happen.
Suzuki had an impressive debut for the Storm Thursday night, scoring the winner in overtime as Guelph downed the Niagara IceDogs 6-5.
Sean Durzi, acquired in the same trade, had two assists.
“We’ve been playing together since we were six or seven years old,” Ratcliffe said after Thursday’s win. “It’s awesome to finally play together again.”
Ratcliffe said he might have worked on getting Suzuki to Guelph “a little bit.”
“We always joked in the summer about getting him here to play,” Ratcliffe said. “I know he and the other guys are super pumped to be here.”
Suzuki said the friendship between the two is more than a hockey one.
“Both of us grew up in the same neighbourhood. I’d walk over to his house and he’d come to mine,” Suzuki said.
“It’s definitely more than a hockey friendship. We work out all summer together and skate together. I see a lot of him,” Suzuki said.
When he heard Guelph was interested in him, he was thrilled.
“We’ve been trying to get on the same team since we entered the draft. Now we’re just trying to get the chemistry back,” Suzuki said.
Suzuki and Ratcliffe grew up just down the street from one another in London.
When the Suzukis moved, it was just around the corner.
They’ve played hockedy together since they were around six years old and spent a few years in school together.
After combining for 117 points on the London Jr. Knights minor midgets in their draft year, they were both taken in the first round of the 2015 OHL Priority Selection: Suzuki 15th overall in the 2015 draft. WIth the next pick the Storm chose Ratcliffe.
Had Owen Sound selected Ratcliffe, the Storm would have taken Suzuki.
Thursday’s game might not have been the tidiest affair, but the Storm found a way to win.
The IceDogs took a 5-4 lead on a Ben Jones power play goal with just 4:04 left in regulation.
But with goaltender Anthony Popovich on the bench in favour of the extra attacker, Guelph’s Nate Schnarr rifled a wrister to the top corner with six seconds on the clock to force overtime.
It was a Suzuki delay of game penalty that had led to Niagara’s go-ahead goal by Jones.
“I was freaking out when I saw the puck go over the glass,” Suzuki said. “I felt really bad for the guys because we were working hard all game. I definitely wanted to get it back for them.”
The winner came at 2:19 of overtime.
Suzuki gathered speed in the neutral zone, went wide on a defender and circled the net, drifting towards the slot and waiting patiently before firing a wrister over the shoulder of Niagara netminder Stephen Dhillon.
“I didn’t really have anything so I decided to go around the net, then the defence was cheating on the pass so I just fired it short side,” Suzuki said.
Storm coach George Burnett he’ll take the win, even if his team wasn’t at its best.
“I think if you were to ask all the guys they recognize there were a lot of things in the game tonight that we could do better,” Burnett said.
“There’s some things to tidy up there, no question, but we stayed with it … you’re never sure what’s going to happen in the three-on-three but it’s nice that it went our way tonight.”
MacKenzie Entwistle, Dmitri Samorukov, Liam Hawel and Ratcliffe had Guelph’s other goals. Popovich made 39 saves.
Guelph plays in Kitchener Friday night then hosts the top ranked team in the OHL Sunday when the Ottawa 67’s visit the Sleeman Centre in a 2 p.m. start.