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From the Stands: Storm finally show up against top team

From the Stands
By Paul Osborne

The Guelph Storm were beginning to look like the school yard bully who willingly beats up 90-pound weaklings, but ran and hid whenever a kid their own size showed up with a challenge.

Despite their impressive 24-7-2-1 record, they were winless in their last four games against rivals London and Erie and they were especially bad against the Knights last Friday night, losing 5-2 to an undermanned London team.

But Sunday they finally rose to the occasion against a tough opponent, beating Erie 5-0.

“As disappointed as I was Friday, I was excited about tonight,” said coach Scott Walker. “We can play with energy and be hard to compete against and relentless on the forecheck. The guys were into the game emotionally, you could feel it on the bench.”

Erie was playing their fourth game in five days and leaving for an early Christmas break after the game, and didn’t have Connor McDavid, Andre Burakovsky, defenceman Adam Pelech and goaltender Oscar Dansk – all gone to World Junior hockey camps.

But the Storm were missing two top- six forwards as well in Tyler Bertuzzi (injured) and Kerby Rychel (at Team Canada’s camp), along with defenceman Phil Baltisberger, with Team Switzerland.

In my mind if they didn’t step up and take this game they would have been nothing more than pretenders for the Western Conference title.

But the bottom line is they did come and play one of their best games of the season. They dominated much of the match and shots on goal were indicative of the play with the Storm holding a 37-21 advantage.

“We need to start beating the top teams to move up in the standings,” admitted Guelph forward Scott Kosmachuk who had two goals in the win and was named the game’s first star. “We know we can play with them and showing up for those games and playing up to the best of our abilities (is important).”

The other interesting development has been the play of rookie netminder Matt Mancina who posted back-to-back shutouts on the weekend blanking Owen Sound 4-0 Saturday night before denying Erie Sunday.

Justin Nichols, the acknowledged number one goaltender hasn’t played terribly (in fact he was one of the few good players Friday night in London), but he hasn’t exactly stood on his head either. Walker said after Saturday’s win it would be hard not to play Mancina after a shutout so now he has two straight so it will be interesting to see who gets the start Thursday when the Storm host Sault Ste. Marie, Nichols’ old team.

The win over the Otters was just one win, but it was an important one for the home team. They had to win a game against a good team for their own confidence if nothing else.

A bully who only beats up on weaklings is just a bully.  But a person who relishes all comers will gain the respect of his opponents and the Storm earned a little of that with their win Sunday.

From the Land of Oz . . . Sunday night’s game included a surprise on-ice wedding proposal during the second intermission. Jim Irwin proposed to Kristi Hunt, and she said yes . . .  Storm forward and Carolina Hurricanes second round draft pick Brock McGinn will have surgery on his hand this Friday in Raleigh, North Carolina. “It is related to the hand surgery he had earlier,” said GM Mike Kelly. McGinn has been playing in extreme pain and it is felt the minor surgery will help clear up the problem. He is expected to miss a week to ten days after the Christmas break . . . Forward Robby Fabbri continues his excellent play scoring four goals on the weekend. He had two goals in the Storm’s win in Owen Sound.

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