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From the Stands: Centre embraces defensive duties

From the Stands
By Paul Osborne

Guelph native Stephen Pierog was a player Guelph Storm general manager Mike Kelly was always interested in.

He liked his tenacity and grit and the fact he was tough to play against. The Peterborough Petes didn’t draft Pierog until the 11th round in 2010 (208th overall) so the odds of him making the OHL were doubtful from the outset.

People just forgot to tell him about that part.

The Storm traded forward Hunter Garlent to Peterborough at the trade deadline for Pierog and four second round draft picks, but Pierog was far from a throw-in in the deal. The Storm wanted him to centre their third line and often line-up against the other team’s top trio.

“When I’m on the ice I try not to allow the other team any goals,” said the 19-year-old product of the Guelph Minor Hockey Association. “Although I like to score goals too, my job is to be a good energetic defensive centreman. I love going after the bigger guys and sticking up for my teammates.”

Despite being a great lacrosse player it was always Pierog’s goal to play in the Ontario Hockey League.

“I played junior B the (year after I was drafted) and the following year when I tried out with the Petes, I knew it was a long shot but I hoped my work ethic on and off the ice would pay off. I could have  gone the NCAA route to play lacrosse, but when the Petes asked me to play in some exhibition games, I had to try it because playing in the OHL was my goal.”

He made the club that season and last year tallied 19 goals to boot.  While he is still looking for his first point in eight games with the Storm, he had 11 goals in 38 games with the Petes.

“I’ve had lots of chances to score here but I know the goals will come,” said Pierog, who admits he’d love to get that first one out of the way.

Pierog loves what he sees in this Storm team.

“We are one big happy group in the locker room,” he said. “There is always a lot of talking and every person in there is a leader. We like to get off to quick starts and then build on that. We are a confident group and we think we are going to win (every game).”

The Guelph Storm have yet to lose since Pierog arrived, and have lost only one of their last 16 games – a streak that now sees them three points ahead of Erie for first place overall in the OHL, and the second ranked team in Canada.

From the Land of Oz . . . The Storm is 37-8-2-1 after their 4-2 win over Saginaw Sunday. Kerby Rychel led the way with a pair of markers . . . Friday, the Storm built a 4-1 lead behind two goals from Brock McGinn to beat Owen Sound 4-2. The return match in Owen Sound Saturday night was postponed because of the weather . . . Rychel is finally starting to feel comfortable here after coming over from Windsor in a trade. The biggest adjustment is that coach Scott Walker and his staff insist the players are always moving and not standing still waiting for a pass. “We play an NHL style of game,” said Rychel who admitted making that adjustment took a while.

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