It was nice while it lasted.
The Guelph Storm surprised everyone, even themselves, with a lengthy stay atop the Western Conference standings.
But that came to an end Sunday as the sizzling-hot Kitchener Rangers beat them 2-1 in a battle of two dog-tired teams at the Sleeman Centre.
Windsor, who won Sunday, are now in first. Kitchener, who were at the bottom of the standings three weeks ago, now sit tied for second with Guelph.
"It lacked the kind of energy that you might anticipate in a typical Kitchener/Guelph match-up," Storm coach George Burnett said.
Both teams were playing their third game in less than three days and both have been on very busy stretches for the past week and a half.
It didn't help Guelph's cause that they lost versatile winger Cedric Ralph early in the game due to illness.
"I don't want to talk about their team, they did what they needed to do to win. A lot of our mistakes today were tired mistakes and we probably got what we deserved. I don't want to make excuses, but it would have been nice to find that second goal somehow."
Burnett's immediate attention now turns to the OHL trade deadline, which is Thursday for overage players and Friday for everyone else.
"Lots of discussion but not a lot of things happening," Burnett said.
"I think now that the World Junior tournament is over things will start happening a little bit. Or there may not be a lot of things that happen. Once there's one or two things that happen, particularly in our conference, it may discourage some teams from adding significantly."
Is Gueph a buyer or seller?
"I'm not a big fan of the term 'buyer or seller?'" Burnett said. "If we can make our team stronger for now and for the future, any additions we make would be to make our team stronger (but) with younger players."
Owen Bennett, who has done an admirable job in the absence of Nico Daws, played well in his 10th straight start, including three in a row this weekend, and had little chance on the game winner.
That came at 1:41 of the third period when an ill-advised pinch by Storm defenceman Daniil Chayka led to a two-on-one rush for the Rangers, with Francesco Pinelli burying a perfect feed from former Storm Liam Hawel.
Guelph was all over Kitchener in the third, but Jacob Ingham continued his great play by turning aside 40 Guelph shots.
The Rangers are 15-1-1 in their last 17 games.
Burnett said Bennett has stood tall in the 10-game stretch since Daws left. He will return to Guelph later this week.
"I think he's shown that he's a legitimate OHL goalie who is going to have a bright future if he continues to work and do all that's asked of him. We're very pleased of his progress," the Storm coach said.
Bennett said he's just happy to have been given the chance he did.
"I never would have thought I would have been playing this many games in a row coming in at 17, but it's been great," Bennett said.
"A lot of the guys are tired. We need our rest," said Bennett, who admitted three games in a weekend has left him a bit gassed.
"I can't speak for others, but overall I'm pretty happy with how I'v played. I've had some good games and some good periods and I've had some rough periods, but overall I think I've played well."
The Storm hits the road for games in Ottawa and Kingston next weekend. Next home game is Jan. 17 when Owen Sound visits.