From the Stands
By Paul Osborne
The Guelph Storm have 16 games remaining in their regular season schedule. They sit in fourth place in by far the toughest division in the Ontario Hockey League and fifth in the Western Conference.
These next games won’t just set the table for the playoffs and establish their final placing, they will teach this club some valuable lessons moving forward into next season.
“They are going to find out a lot about themselves,” said head coach Scott Walker. “(These next few weeks) will be a great test for us. They have to learn it’s not just how hard you have to play every game it’s the consistency you have to bring to every shift. They are all hard at this time of year.”
Consistency, discipline and special teams are the three areas he feels his team must improve on over the stretch run.
And when it comes to discipline, he doesn’t just point a finger at the players, he feels he has to be better as well. “I have to be less hard on the refs,” the coach admits. “The team feeds off me and if I’m undisciplined myself it can’t be good. If I’m not going to be a good leader by getting on the refs, (I can’t expect them to be). But it will come.”
Discipline is always the key to the postseason. The ability to turn the other cheek and force your opponent to take an extra penalty can mean the difference in any contest. There is a power and swagger that can come with controlling your emotions – by being the bigger man. It is a toughness that is not measured by knuckles or body checks but by a willingness to suffer some pain for the gain of your teammates. Mental toughness is often harder to attain than physical strength. Yet once you have it, it gives you an edge that pure strength will never conquer.
The third element, special teams, is one that the Storm needs to develop.
“We’ve been throwing the puck around on the power play pretty well lately,” said Walker. “But we haven’t been able to finish. That will have to improve soon.”
The Storm sits a disappointing 16th out of 20 teams when it comes to the powerplay.
Now having a great PP is not a guarantee for success. Ottawa leads the league in that department, scoring on over 27 per cent of their chances (compared to 16 per cent for Guelph), yet they are dead last in the league. It is somewhat surprising that the Storm has struggled because they are sixth overall in the league in goals for.
That means that 5-on-5 they have been good, so if they can start to take advantage of their manpower opportunities it could denote the difference between winning and losing some key games down the stretch.
From the Land of Oz . . . The Storm fell further behind Kitchener last week failing to compete hard enough in a 5-2 loss on home ice to the Rangers, but they bounced back with a 3-2 shootout win in Kitchener Friday night. Jason Dickinson and Justin Auger scored for the home side in the shootout to secure the win . . . As of today the Storm have their work cut out against them to secure home ice advantage as they trail fourth place Owen Sound by five points with one game in hand, and third place Kitchener by six with two in hand. The Storm can put a dent in that margin tomorrow night as they have a road match with the Attack . . . Storm players Tyler Bertuzzi and Ben Harpur were sighted at the Wings-Kings NHL game Sunday afternoon in Detroit. Bertuzzi was hoping to see his uncle Todd play but he was scratched and didn’t even come to the rink . . . Former Storm players Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty both had strong games for the Kings who, despite outshooting Detroit 47-31, lost on a last second goal 3-2 . . . The puck drops on the Storm’s game Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Owen Sound. On Friday, Guelph hosts Owen Sound for a 7:30 p.m. game at the Sleeman Centre.