OWEN SOUND – It can be difficult learning to play in the Ontario Hockey League when you're a rookie. It can be even harder when you're not playing.
Guelph Storm backup goaltender Nico Daws started just his second game of the season Saturday night, earning his first career victory with a 43-save performance in a huge 4-2 win over the Owen Sound Attack.
The 17-year-old Burlington native’s only other start came almost a month ago, a shootout loss in Erie. He got some relief work a week ago in Kitchener.
“That feels really good. Very relieving,” said a beaming Daws, whose parents were in the stands to see their son’s first win.
“It’s so relieving, get that monkey off my back,” he said.
Daws said the lack of action doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be ready when the call finally comes.
“You just have to be mentally prepared for every game and physically prepared. You’ve always got to be ready and hope you get the call. If you don’t, you should still be ready,” said Daws, who found out he would be getting the start Saturday morning.
Daws played big and controlled all night. He kept the angles tight and didn’t let the heavy traffic in front distract him.
“Get in front of the puck and don’t worry about anything else,” he said.
Daws had plenty of help Saturday as the entire Storm team deserved a pat on the back for this one.
Givani Smith looked like the Givani Smith of old, picking up a goal and an assist and generally getting in the Attack’s face all night.
Smith’s goal was the game winner, a sharp-angle wrister that beat Riley Daniels with three minutes left in the second period.
Daniels had a rough night, letting in a couple of bad goals.
Both teams went one-for-four on the power play.
Cam Hillis, Isaac Ratcliffe and Cedric Ralph had the other Storm goals.
Garrett McFadden had two assists and Ryan Merkley was a plus-3 in what was a complete team effort.
Owen Sound played the game without its top two forwards, as Ryan Suzuki and Kevin Hancock were both out of the lineup.
Ralph’s goal made it 4-2 with just under nine minutes left in the game, a goal that let Daws exhale.
“I was sooo happy,” said Daws of that fourth goal.
The Storm tries to make it a three-win weekend Sunday afternoon when the London Knights visit the Sleeman Centre in a 2 p.m. start.