KITCHENER — You don't go on a streak like this with passengers on board.
The Guelph Storm downed the Kitchener Rangers 5-1 on the road Tuesday, the team's ninth consecutive win, just three shy of tying the 16-year-old club record of 12 straight.
The win also put them in second place in the Western Conference, just percentage points back of the first-place Windsor Spitfires.
I know. Windsor in first, Guelph in second and Kitchener dead last. Who'd a thunk it.
And while the big scorers were doing their thing (three points for Pavel Gogolev, a goal for Cam Hillis) and Nico Daws was being Nico Daws (29 saves) it was some of the team's younger players that were catching plenty of post-game praise.
In fact Gogolev said the team's fourth line, an all-rookie combo of Ben McFarlane, Cooper Walker and Marko Sikic might have been the team's best on the night.
"Today I think the fourth line came up big. I think they were the best line on the ice today," he said.
"Every time I saw them on the ice they were working and spending a lot of time in the offensive zone, cycling the puck and getting chances. Not many goals maybe, but lots of chances."
Getting those types of shifts from the third and fourth line make it so much easier for the top lines to operate, he said, adding that the biggest ingredient in the winning streak has been the team's work ethic.
"Every line works hard," he said. "Work ethic and chemistry."
Coach George Burnett agreed wholeheartedly.
"I was really pleased with the Walker line and the Zhilkin line," Burnett said of the third and fourth lines.
"They gave our team some life after 40 minutes. I didn't think it was a great game for our hockey team for 40 minutes, very spotty ... but that Walker line gave us two or three shifts early in the third, spent a lot of time in the offensive zone and gave us some momentum.
"Any time your kids are doing those types of things it's really healthy on our bench. Our guys are really excited for them to see them out there playing some important minutes and generate some scoring chances."
The crucial moment came with just 1.3 seconds remaining in the second period and the game tied 1-1.
At the end of a solid keep-the-puck-deep shift that Burnett called the team's "best shift of the game," Josh Wainman let a point shot go and Andrei Bakanov provided a perfect screen on Rangers goaltender Lucas Pfeil, putting the Storm ahead.
"It was huge," Burnett said.
"The shift that led to the goal was maybe our best shift of the period. We won a couple of battles, we protected the puck, we went low to high and a shot got through with some really good traffic."
Third period goals by Cedric Ralph (shorthanded), Keegan Stevenson and Gogolev polished off the scoring.
The Storm also killed off four of five Rangers power plays.
Next up for Guelph is the Sarnia Sting Friday night at the Sleeman Centre. Saturday they play in Hamilton.