Not Friday night in
Storm coach George Burnett said he pulled Popovich three goals into a 7-5 loss to the Kitchener Rangers to save him for future endeavours.
“The reason I pulled Poppy was that I just didn’t think it was fair. For all he’s done for us in 20 games then to have our team perform in front of him like we did tonight….” said Burnett, his voice trailing off.
“It was more saving him in my mind. For as good as he’s played and as well as he’s played nearly every night, to play like that in front of him I don’t think was fair.”
Burnett might have been a little kind to his goalie. Neither Popovich nor his replacement, Nico Daws, were particularly sharp on the night, surrendering
In fact other than a hat trick by James McEwan and some urgent play in the final 10 minutes of the third period that made the game closer than it really was, the team was quite flat on the night.
The Rangers led 4-0 by early in the third period and the Storm weren’t able to get closer than two goals the rest of the way.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys in the lineup and they’re getting their first taste of this rivalry,” said McEwan, who added an assist to his three goals.
Learning to play from behind is something the team is still figuring out, McEwan said.
Burnett once again praised the work of the team’s younger players, but said the team as a whole seems to be a bit fragile when faced with adversity.
“It’s not anything we should be proud of tonight,” Burnett said.
“We’re easily distracted …. When we’re playing well and things are positive, it’s easy to care and be a good teammate. When there’s some adversity and negativity you can see it, we fragment very quickly,” the coach said.
The Storm hosts the Sarnia Sting on Sunday in a 6 p.m. start.