It could be a rare season in the OHL’s Western Conference, where parity has invaded the standings.
No runaway team, no major separation yet between the contenders and the pretenders: it’s a conference where just nine points separated second place from ninth place after Sunday’s action.
The Guelph Storm had a chance to move into the top four teams Sunday with a win over the London Knights, but a 5-1 loss at the Sleeman Centre leaves them in sixth place, one point up those same Knights.
“I don’t think I’d be counting anybody out yet,” said Guelph coach George Burnett after Sunday’s loss.
“I’d just love to have our guys healthy and not suspended so we can play five or six games and see how good we can be. I have a pretty good idea, but I’d like to see what the possibilities are.”
Guelph has not had its full lineup all season, and won’t for at least two more games after Liam Hawel was given a match penalty for slew footing on Sunday.
That’s an automatic two-game suspension and maybe more following a review by the league.
“I’d like to have all hands on deck for a period of time to see where we fit into the mix,” Burnett said.
After winning its first two games of the weekend, the Storm came into Sunday’s game looking for the rare three-in-three sweep.
It was a tight contest in the early going, with the game tied 0-0 early in the second period.
But the Knights struck for three goals before the middle frame ended, two of them on the power play, and cruised to victory.
Cedric Ralph, with his third goal of the weekend, had the lone Storm marker.
“I didn’t mind the way we played,” said Burnett.
“I knew our energy was going to be a concern today, but I thought we had good momentum and we had good and equal opportunities. The penalty early in the second hurt us and then we took another penalty.”
One of those goals, by Max Jones, one of his two on the afternoon, came during a five-minute advantage after Hawel’s slew foot behind the play.
“The major penalty was obviously not a good decision.”
London had Saturday off. Guelph played in Owen Sound.
“I’m not going to make any excuses. It’s a valuable learning experience and I thought we played well up until we got into some trouble late in the second period,” Burnett said.
This week’s upcoming action will see the Storm host Erie on Friday then play in Owen Sound on Saturday.