STORM STEAL ONE AGAINST SPITFIRES IN OVERTIME

The Guelph Storm won their third straight game on Sunday afternoon, defeating the Windsor Spitfires in overtime by a score of 5-4.

With just under two minutes left in the extra frame, defenceman Zac Leslie fired the puck off a Spitfires’ defender from an odd angle to capture the extra point for the hometown Storm.

With the win, the Storm kept pace with the conference’s third-place London Knights, who defeated Saginaw on Sunday. With 13 games remaining, Guelph sits one point back of the Knights, and 5 points up on Kitchener (who have 2 games in hand).

Given the team’s weak play on Sunday they should be incredibly pleased to have walked away with two points. For the second straight game, the Storm were badly outshot. In Friday’s win, goaltender Justin Nichols was forced to make 58 saves on 61 shots against Sarnia. In this one, Nichols was tested 50 times while the Storm countered only with 36.

Maybe I’m being a tad harsh, as this game never got away from the Storm, but I’ve grown to expect lots out of this bunch.

The Storm got off to a slow start. They spent the first 7 minutes of the game without a single shot. Despite this, Tyler Hill opened the scoring after a great shift of offensive zone cycling by he, Matthew Hotchkiss and Chris Marchese.

The second half of the period was played much better on the part of the Storm, and their efforts were rewarded. In one of the most odd plays you’ll see this season, Spits goalie Alex Fotinos attempted to cover up the puck behind his own goal. When the referees would not blow the whistle for him, given that he had plenty of time to play the puck, he begrudgingly coughed it up to a triad of Storm players waiting eagerly. Pius Suter was credited with his 29th goal of the year after a mad scramble in front of the net following the commotion.

The Storm took a 2-0 lead into the second period despite being outshot 20-12 in the first. It would quickly catch up with them however, as Dallas Stars prospect Patrick Sanvido blasted his first goal of the season through Nichols’ five-hole.

Nichols, who made 46 saves in the win, should really have been credited a game “star” for his efforts. Without Nichols, the game may have gotten insurmountably out of hand early on.

The Storm played decently the rest of the period, but were unable to beat Brendan Johnston, who replaced Fotinos following the second Storm goal, the rest of the frame. Windsor would take advantage late in the second, with a goal by Slater Doggett.

The third period was a beast of it’s own, and it’s intensity was unlike anything we had seen in the first two periods. Only 10 seconds in, CJ Garcia coughed up the puck trying to break out of his own zone. Anthony Stefano would promptly gather the puck, and beat Nichols in alone on a breakaway. Any momentum the Storm were trying to generate out of the gate was immediately zapped.

Tyler Bertuzzi would have something to say about that, as he sniped the tying goal not two minutes later. The goal would bring the game to a tie, but it still looked like the Spits had the edge.

Had Logan Stanley not absolutely levelled Garrett McFadden a few short minutes after the go-ahead and tying goals, we might be talking about a game the Storm let get away from them. Let me explain.

McFadden would attempt a break-in to the Spits zone only to be absolutely clobbered by 6’7″ Logan Stanley. In McFadden’s defense, the 6’1″ Marc Stevens (a generous 6’1″ listing in the game program, might I add) stepped in and bravely tussled with the giant. I can’t imagine Stevens expected to win heading in, but he managed to lock Stanley up and delivered a number of consecutive blows that dropped Stanley. Stevens, the Storm and the entire crowd erupted following the classic “David vs. Goliath” fight and it sparked a Guelph team that had looked flat all night.

Trailing 4-3 with a minute left – following a Spits go-ahead goal halfway through the frame – rookie Givani Smith muscled a goal in on the doorstep to even the game. The Storm took a tie into overtime, and Leslie’s goal would finally end it.

A couple of things stood out for me in this game.

The team looked inspired in the third period, despite playing two not-so-great periods of hockey. In a tight game, against a team they should be handling, the boys found a way to get two points in a game that by all rights was up for grabs in the dying moments.

I was also very impressed by Guelph’s supporting players. Luke Burghardt, Ryan Foss and Marc Stevens played some clutch minutes, particularly in the second period. Stevens had a big fight, Burghardt drew a key penalty and all-in-all they played great.

Givani Smith, Chris Marchese and Pius Suter also played excellently in support of Bertuzzi, who bagged 4 points in the win. These players are going to be huge come playoffs, and while the spotlight will be on guys like Fabbri, Dickinson, Leslie, and Nichols, it will be the success of the Suter’s and Marchese’s that determines how far we advance .

The Storm will look to keep their three-game win streak alive when they take on Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters on Friday night at the Sleeman Centre. Action gets underway at 7:30 PM EST.

Joe Krizman

In 2013, Joe graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in Physical and Health Education. During his years in school, he spent his summers off working with kids at a summer camp; an experience he credits as being highly influential in shaping who he is today.

Joe followed up his university degree by moving out to Calgary for the 2013/14 hockey season, where he served as the Coordinator of Player Development & Recruitment for the Western Hockey League (WHL) in their head office. Having developed a love for major junior hockey with the WHL, he is excited to be getting involved with it again this season back in his hometown of Guelph.

A self-proclaimed “sports enthusiast”, Joe is thrilled about getting the opportunity to share his thoughts and sports insights in a new way.