SAGINAW - This is how good the Guelph Storm can be.
Down 3-1 in the Western Conference final and facing elimination Friday night, the Storm turned in a stunning performance, completely dominating for 40 minutes and downing the Saginaw Spirit 4-0 at the Dow Event Centre.
Game 6 goes Sunday in Guelph.
They forechecked like hungry dogs, their defensive zone coverage was immaculate and they created a traffic jam time and time again in front of Spirit goaltender Tristan Lennox.
Dmitri Samorukov led the way offensively, scoring his first career hat trick, and goaltender Anthony Popovich did his part, stopping all 20 Saginaw shots.
“I think we’re pretty confident, we’ve been through it once,” Samorukov said of facing elimination on Friday. “We just play our game. We just want to win, it’s pretty simple.”
Samorukov downplayed his hat trick, which were all pretty fine offensive plays.
“It’s the game of my season, but I’m not a player who likes scoring goals a lot. I’m happy with that.”
It was a relatively even first period, but Guelph completely dominated the second, scoring three times and outshooting Saginaw 14-3.
It was arguably the Storm’s best 20 minutes of hockey of the season.
“I thought our second period was probably our best period since the Kitchener series, really,” said Storm coach George Burnett.
“We had the puck a lot, we spent some time in the offensive zone and that’s important for our hockey club.
“The message was to play loose and have the puck.”
One of the things Burnett was pleased with was how the team tracked Saginaw when they had the puck.
“We’ve got some big body guys that played some big body hockey today,” the Storm coach said.
The score would have been much higher had it not been for 16-year-old rookie Lennox, who made several brilliant saves.
“Not our night,” summed up Saginaw coach Chris Lazary.
“We’ve got a resilient group. Tonnes of character in the room. Zero panic. We know we have to be better and we’ll find a way to be better.”
Lazary said he expects the team’s leadership group to do just that Sunday in Guelph.
“This is why we got guys like Ryan McLeod and Owen Tippett,” he said.
Game time Sunday is 2 p.m.