Cedric Ralph got the message loud and clear.
The Guelph Storm overager, with one goal in his last 10 games, got promoted to the team's top line Friday night at the Sleeman Centre and it wasn't a reward for all his scoring exploits of late.
Coach George Burnett was sending a bit of a message to the snakebitten Ralph, one he didn't need to verbalize: I'm trying to get you going by lining you up with Pavel Gogolev and Cam Hillis.
"I think that kind of sends a message on its own," said Ralph when asked if Burnett needed to explain the move.
"I know when I'm with them I've got to put in the work because you know they're going to put in the work. I guess that's the message there."
Ralph's response also spoke volumes, as Ralph scored a pair of goals as the Storm downed the Oshawa Generals 4-3 in a shootout.
With seven games remaining in the regular season the win clinched a playoff spot for the locals.
"It feels really good to have a game like that with Hilly and Gogs and to be able to get that playoff clincher is definitely a big plus for our team," Ralph said.
"Feels great. Just that one step forward, knowing for sure we have a playoff spot we can focus on trying to catch that team ahead of us."
The Peterborough native hasn't played much with Hillis and Gogolev this season and Ralph only had one practice after a Wednesday game in Erie to figure some things out.
"They move the puck well, they circle a lot and they see the ice well. It's easy to move around with them when you've got players constantly moving around and supporting each other," said Ralph, who could have had the hat trick but was stopped on a penalty shot in the third period.
"My job is just to be a tenacious kind of player and get them the puck, let them do some of the magic they're known to do."
Ralph's second of the game early in the third period had given Guelph a 3-2 lead, but Oshawa's Ty Tullio's power play goal with 4:32 on the clock forced overtime.
After a scoreless five minutes it went to a five-round shootout, with Gogolev, Danny Zhilkin and, on the deciding shot, Matt Papais beating Jordan Kooy to secure the victory.
Eric Uba had Guelph's other goal in regulation and Nico Daws made 23 saves.
Guelph plays in Sarnia on Sunday night then hosts the Kitchener Rangers on Wednesday.