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Bring on the Sting! Guelph Storm ready for playoff action

Goaltender Patrick Leaver is healthy and ready to go as the Guelph Storm prepares to open the OHL playoffs Friday night against the Sarnia Sting
Guelph Storm defenceman Zack Sandhu keeps an eye on Sarnia's Ty Voit.

The Guelph Storm players were chomping at the bit this week in preparation for the OHL playoffs.

Coach Chad Wiseman said much like the pre-season, you practice well and hard, but at the end of the day you just can't wait for the real thing to start.

"The effort is always there with this particular group, but the energy has been really high in practice this week," Wiseman said.

"We spend a lot of the week on preparation (for Sarnia specifically) but you have to be careful, because too much information can sometimes make it go the other way. You still to be focused on what you're doing while being prepared for what's going to be thrown at us."

Game 1 is Friday night in Sarnia, Game 2 Sunday afternoon in Sarnia. Games 3 and 4 are in Guelph on Tuesday and Thursday.

Wiseman said the week has "dragged out" a bit after finishing the regular season last Saturday, with four practices without games.

"But they're well prepared, they're excited and they're ready to go."

While the starting goaltender for Guelph hasn't been announced yet, 19-year-old Patrick Leaver is healthy and available for action, Wiseman said.

Leaver didn't dress the last couple of games of the regular season, more as a precaution as he recovered from a minor ailment. But he's 100 per cent now, Wiseman said.

"He was on the ice four times this week and practiced," Wiseman said. "He looks good and feels good."

Whether the Storm decides to go with Leaver or 18-year-old Brayden Gillespie wasn't going to be decided, or at least announced to the team, until Thursday night.

The sixth-place Storm finished 16 points back of fourth-place Sarnia during the regular season, but that was due primarily to Guelph's horrid start.

Since Christmas the pair were two of the OHL's better teams. Sarnia went 25-8-1-2 for 53 points after the break while Guelph went 23-12-1-0 for 47 points.

"The things that made us successful this year, the identity of what this team is and how we have to play the game to be successful, that doesn't matter who the opponent is. That can't change and that won't change. That focus on us and our identity on how we play is focus number one."

Wiseman points to Sarnia's depth, their power play and their ability to maintain puck control in the offensive zone as some of the elements that make Sarnia so dangerous.

Here's the first round matchups in the Western Conference and predicted outcomes:

Windsor (1) vs. Kitchener (8)

Windsor is big, experienced and fast, but it depends which Kitchener team shows up. Windsor in six

London (2) vs. Owen Sound (7)

A rather intriguing matchup, given London's roller coaster ride down the stretch. But Owen Sound is a year away: London in five

Sarnia (3) vs. Guelph (6)

Should be a dogfight. But we'll give it to Sarnia's deeper scoring punch. Sarnia in seven

Saginaw (4) Flint (5)

The Firebirds have shown they can stay hot for stretches and are on one of those heading into the post-season. Flint in seven

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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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