From the Stands
By Paul Osborne
It was a pretty strange training camp for the Guelph Storm this year.
With nine players away at NHL camps, they had just a skeleton crew to work with and virtually no time to develop line chemistry on the ice. It was a tremendous opportunity for some young players like Guelph native Sam Natale to play a couple games in a Storm uniform, but a little tough for coach Scott Walker to try different combinations.
“In some ways it was tough but in other ways it was fun,” said Walker. “It gave us an opportunity to get to know our young players and get them conditioned and up to speed. I won’t say (the situation) was perfect but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Will we be a week to 10 days behind other teams? Maybe, but we have character guys and we’ll work through it.”
The big question remains goaltending and Walker hadn’t made up his mind yet whether it would be Jason DaSilva or Matt Mancina who gets the start in the season opener Friday night against Erie.
“Mancina has been a pleasant surprise (at training camp),” said Walker. “But DaSilva’s character is off the charts. He works harder than anyone out there. We’ll have an organizational meeting this week to discuss who gets the start.”
Mancina’s numbers were stronger than DaSilva’s, but it is hard to make an accurate call with so many regular players out of the line-up.
Either way, it is a tremendous opportunity for either player to establish themselves as OHL goaltenders. In the long run the club will likely have to bring in a veteran, but who will earn the back-up role could be determined in the next couple of weeks.
The Storm goes into the season ranked as the fifth best team in Canada. High praise for a club that couldn’t make it past the first round last year, but with the high number of NHL drafts on the team, they are getting an early nod.
In this reporter’s experience, having this high a ranking usually is more of a curse than a compliment, but Walker says it doesn’t mean a thing.
“Show me the rankings at the end of the year, that’s when they count,” said Walker, who knows full well they aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. “I’ll be telling the guys that they can’t just throw on their gear and go stand on the ice. It only means that every team will be gunning for us now.”
The Storm should be an exciting team to watch with the ability to score lots of goals. They will once again employ a high-tempo forecheck trying to disrupt the opposition before they begin their breakout.
“We have guys with speed to burn,” said the head coach. “With high end players you should play hard and fast. Even on our third and fourth lines we can go with a lot of speed.”
It is expected that most players at NHL camps will be back before the opener on Friday. The one exception may be Brock McGinn with Carolina.
From the Land of Oz . . . Storm forward Scott Kosmachuk had a goal for Winnipeg in their game against Washington . . . Defenceman Matt Finn, who injured his shoulder at the Toronto Maple Leafs training camp, is hopeful to play Friday night. However, import D-man Phil Baltisberger is out for at least another week with his broken jaw, meaning the six opening night defencemen are expected to be Finn, Ben Harpur, Zac Leslie Chadd Bauman, Garrett McFadden and Kyle Locke . . . The Storm’s season opener against Erie is Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Sleeman Centre.