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Guelph Storm goaltender Nico Daws gets his groove on (9 photos)

After shutting out Mississauga on Sunday the Storm goaltender leads the OHL in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts

Six months ago Nico Daws wasn't sure what or where his hockey future was.

Backing up Anthony Popovich, who was also returning to the Guelph Storm, and with the team preparing to sign a young goaltener, the 19-year-old Daws could have been on his way out of Guelph and possibly the league.

So the Burlington native made a decision: get serious.

He got focused, worked hard on his game and conditioning all summer, losing a considerable amount of weight before coming to training camp and showing the team he deserved to be the number one goalie.

Daws continued his superb playon Sunday, making 35 saves for his second shutout of the season as Guelph won its third straight, 4-0 over the visiting Mississauga Steelheads.

"In the summer I looked at myself and said 'I want to earn this role. I don't want it to be just given to me.' I think I did that," said Daw after Sunday's win.

"It's definitely easier to get in a groove when you're playing more. I wasn't playing a lot last year so it was hard to kind of find my groove."

Daws now leads the OHL in goals-against average (2.30), save percentage (0.938) and shutouts (2).

After Popovich was traded to the Flint Firebirds at the start of the season, Daws knew it was important to play well in the wake of that deal.

"It was very important to get off to a good start, especially for my confidence and the team's confidence. Let everybody get some trust in me," Daws said.

He said he would have played wherever he ended up this season, as long as he played, but he's thrilled it got to be in Guelph.

"Honestly, I would have played anywhere, but I'm really happy I got to stay here. I love it here." 

Sunday's victory improved the Storm's record to 6-4-1-2, good enough for seventh place in a Western Conference where just five points separate first from eighth.

Andrei Bakanov, Keegan Stevenson, Pavel Gogolev and Ty Collins had the Storm goals in a game they led 2-0 after one period and 3-0 after two.

George Burnett said that the Storm was fortunate to get through the first 10 minutes without being scored upon by a Mississauga squad finishing up a three-in-three weekend. Guelph had Saturday off.

"It's natural, with our lack of maturity as our team, to think that maybe it's going to be a little easier," Burnett said of the fact Mississauga might be a bit tired. "But they were hungry today and we were lucky to get through that opening 10 minutes."

Burnett was happy that other players are now adding to the scoring outside the Cam Hillis/Pavel Gogolev line.

He moved Cedric Ralph off that line to put some more speed on the second line, and also take advantage of Ralph's face-off skills.

"That's three games in a row (with a goal) for Bakanov and Stevie (Stevenson) is also chipping in now. If we can do that throughout our lineup, not just with the Hillis line, it makes a huge difference," Burnett said. 

Guelph is on the road for its two games next weekend, Sault Ste. Marie Friday and Saginaw on Saturdy.

Next home game is a rare Saturday night game on Nov. 9 against the Kingston Frontenacs.