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From the Stands: ‘He’s definitely made me a better coach’ Walker says of winger

From the Stands
By Paul Osborne

Despite a 3-2 loss in Saginaw Sunday that ended a seven-game winning streak, the Guelph Storm have posted a remarkable run.

With seven regulars out of the line-up many nights because of injury (Brock McGinn, Hunter Garlent, Tyler Bertuzzi), the World Juniors (Kerby Rychel, Phil Baltisberger), the Under-17 Worlds (Garrett McFadden) and suspension (Ryan Horvat), the team just kept rolling along.  They beat top ranked Erie and highly touted Sault Ste. Marie twice each.

How did they do it?

Well certainly Robby Fabbri was the team’s most dominant force.  Since the beginning of December, a span of 12 games, the 17-year-old has accumulated 15 goals and six assists.  He has been practically unstoppable, picking up another goal and an assist on Sunday.

But another player that has really stepped up is overage winger Zack Mitchell.  He has frustrated coaches in past years with inconsistent efforts.  He was always blessed with skill but he didn’t bring it every night.  That has all changed this season.

“We had a real good talk before the season and he told me ‘Coach I’m over not getting drafted,’ and all that stuff,” said head coach Scott Walker, who admitted that the two didn’t see eye-to-eye before this season.

“He said ‘I want to work and I want to win and I want to be part of a winner.’  And to his credit I’ve never seen a kid stay more true to his word.”

Walker went as far as to say that Mitchell has taught him how to be a better coach.

“It’s been a treat for me to watch and a real treat for me to learn from that, that you have to be open to different ways and different lines of communication and he’s definitely made me a better coach but he’s just been a tremendous hockey player.  There’s not an NHL team I don’t talk to about Zack Mitchell.  This guy plays about 40 minutes a game and he’s just been unbelievable.”

And the key in this reporter’s mind is that when the team needed him most, with everyone else out of the line-up, he has stepped up to take on a leadership role.  That will pay huge dividends moving forward.

Players like Jason Dickinson, Justin Auger, Chadd Bauman and 16-year-old rookie Adam Craievich have also made the most of their newfound ice time.  Craievich now has five goals on the season.

“When you’re not playing a lot you’re really focusing on not making a mistake,” said Craievich.  “I guess when there is more opportunity you don’t worry so much about making a mistake but try to make something happen.”

The Storm, with their gritty efforts have now climbed to within three points of first place Erie in the standings setting up a tremendous stretch drive.

From the Land of Oz . . . The OHL trade deadline is Friday at noon and GM Mike Kelly says its “50-50” he’ll make another move.  He already made a blockbuster deal with Windsor to obtain Kerby Rychel and Nick Ebert . . . Winger Brock McGinn could return to the Storm line-up this weekend but more likely it will be the following weekend.  He is recovering from hand surgery that took place just before Christmas . . . The Storm defeated Sault Ste. Marie 5-3 Friday night, scoring three unanswered goals in the game’s final six minutes.  Jason Dickinson and Craievich both had a goal and an assist.

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