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Guelph Storm bends but doesn't break against London Knights

Storm blows a four-goal lead but finishes strong, downing the London Knights 7-4 at the Sleeman Centre Wednesday night

Fans, players and coaches were all aware that Wednesday night's matchup at the Sleeman Centre could have been a preview of the first round of the playoffs.

If the post-season started now it would be the same Guelph Storm and London Knights to kick things off.

That's why it was so important for the Storm to make a statement, and they did just that.

After blowing a four-goal lead, the Storm finished strong, downing the Knights 7-4 before 4,701 at the Sleeman Centre.

"You've got to set the tone in case we play them in the playoffs and we did a good job of that today," said Storm defenceman Michael Buchinger, who scored a pair of power play goals in the third period to secure the win.

"I think we're a great team and we're not really worried about what the matchup is going forward. It's just about setting the tone against some of the teams you could face that's really important."

Cooper Walker had a goal and three assists to lead the Storm.

"It's in the back of your mind, but our group thinks we can beat anyone in the West in the first round," Walker said of possible playoff implications.

"It's not a big thought of ours going into the playoffs. We just want to get as high as we can in the standings and play whoever we play against and we'll have just as good an opportunity as any other team."

The seventh-place Storm has five games left in its regular season and mathematically could still finish anywhere from fourth to eighth in the Western Conference standings, They're six points back of fourth and three points ahead of eighth.

Still, it was a tale of two struggling teams coming into the game: Guelph having lost three straight and London losers of five of its previous seven games.

Guelph beat London goaltender Zach Bowen on three of its first four shots on net and lead 4-0 early in the second period before the Knights reeled off four straight to tie the game.

What would prove to be the eventual game winner came with 56 seconds left in the second period, when Braeden Bowman found Max Namestnikov in the slot for his second of the game.

London shot itself in the foot with some bad penalties in the third period, which Buchinger took advantage off by delivering his two goals in the final six minutes of regulation.

"No good team gets down on itself if it has a bad period,." Buchinger said of seeing an early 4-0 lead disappear. 

Walker said the bend-don't-break mentality is a credit to the character and leadership in the dressing room.

"Everybody stuck together. We didn't just pack it in and we came out in the third and played our style of game," Walker said.

Valentin Zhugin and Chandler Romeo had the other Storm goals and Patrick Leaver made 24 saves in net as the Storm scored three times on the power play.

Guelph hosts the red-hot Sarnia Sting Friday night, then play in Erie on Saturday.

Final home game of the regular season is March 24 against Erie. Their regular season concludes March 25 in Saginaw. 


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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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