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Guelph Storm losing streak provides a reality check

This team wasn't as good as many thought they were, or as bad as many think they are
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Guelph Storm coach George Burnett. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday file photo

Welcome to junior hockey: one minute your team is riding a 10-game winning streak and you’re looking at hotel prices at the Memorial Cup, a few weeks later they’re on a 10-game losing streak and heads need to roll.

Keegan Stevenson’s one-timer on the doorstep late in Thursday’s game in North Bay snapped that losing skid and Storm fans can breath a little bit easier.

But don’t let yourself be fooled.

That team that went off in the first half of the season and sat in first place in the West when Santa visited was a bit of a mirage. They were never really that good.

Correspondingly, they are not as bad as they looked during the recent tailspin that now has them in sixth place and closer to missing the playoffs than they are to home-ice advantage in the first round.

It’s been bad since the break.

Since returning from Christmas the Storm is 4-10-0-1 and has allowed four goals or more in nine of those 15 contests for a goals-against average of 4.30. They have been outscored 65-48.

Brighter times lay ahead, but maybe not the dazzling sunshine of results that were delivered in October and November.

While goaltender Nico Daws is only just shaking off the rust of inactivity and injury, it would be illogical to think he could perform at the all-world pace he did before Christmas. Possible, yes, but not probable.

He is an excellent goalie, no doubt, but to think he can win games night after night with little offensive support just doesn’t make common sense.

The line of Cam Hillis, Pavel Gogolev and Eric Uba (most nights) continues to be the team’s offensive catalyst, but teams are focusing more on them now and things tend to tighten up after Christmas.

The lack of secondary scoring continues to be a major issue and until the likes of Cedric Ralph, Keegan Stevenson, Andrei Bakanov and Jacob Roach start contributing more, it will be the team’s Achilles heel.

Four players have accounted for 56 per cent of the team’s goals.

The power play, now ranked 15th in the league, has been of little help.

If you’re going to be the lowest scoring team in the conference, your goaltender better be standing on his head, as the pre-Christmas Daws did.

The best case scenario heading into this season for this team was to be in a battle for home-ice advantage down the stretch, and that’s exactly what they find themselves with 22 games left on the schedule.

That’s not being negative, that’s being honest.

The raised expectations of the team’s hot start are natural, but they make it harder to accept the reality of what they really are: a good team that could beat anyone on a given night, but not one that is going to beat everyone on most nights.

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Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 30 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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