It was breakout night for Cam Hillis Friday night at the Sleeman Centre.
The Guelph Storm captain, who entered the game with three points in his first seven games of the season, scored a hat trick and added two assists as the Storm downed the Erie Otters 7-5.
"I've had one good start here in three years, so it's out of the way now," said Hillis of his early scoring issues. "But it's just one game, I'm not really satisfied."
Linemate Pavel Gogolev also had a big night, with two goals and two assists as the Storm got back to .500 (3-3-1-1) on the season.
Hillis's line, which includes Cedric Ralph, was flying all night, using its speed and smarts to create numerous scoring chances.
"It's fun to play with players like that," Hillis said. "Go Go (Gogolev) can really shoot it and Ralphie does all the dirty work. It's a good mix."
Hillis said he realizes that a Storm team that entered the night as the OHL's lowest scoring team needs a top line to carry some of the offence.
"We want that line to work. We're just working every day to build that chemistry and hopefully things keep going," he said.
"We've got to do that primary scoring. We don't have the guys we did last year. We're going to be relied heavily on."
It was probably Gogolev's best game in a Storm jersey.
"I thought that was probably the hardest working game we've seen from Go-Go in his time here," said Storm coach George Burnett.
"He had some good games early at different times, but I just thought he was real strong at both ends of the rink tonight ... it was a real strong game for him."
The game wasn't a particularly good one, technically speaking, but it was certainly an entertaining one for the 3,400 in the stands.
Erie jumped out to a quick 2-1 lead in the opening 10 minutes before the Storm found its pace and started to take over the game for stretches.
It was tied 3-3 in the second period when the Storm took the lead for good, scoring three goals in a span of 5:27, a trio of markers that included Matt Papais' first OHL goal.
Erie made things interesting with a pair of goals in the third period to make it 6-5, the latter coming with 1:46 left in regulation. But Hillis put one into the empty net to ice the game.
It was another lesson for the younger Storm players, learning to play with the lead and protect it.
"I don't know how much learning's happened, based on what I saw tonight," Burnett said with a small smile, "but if we can find a way to win the hockey game and still learn some valuable lessons ..."
Owen Bennett got the start in net for the Storm and despite allowing five goals made some huge saves in the third period.
Nico Daws dressed for the first time in two weeks and will get the start in St. Catharines Saturday night when the Storm takes on the Niagara IceDogs.
Sunday afternoon they host the Sudbury Wolves.