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Guelph Storm now all alone in first place (7 photos)

There's no substitution for hard work as the Storm downs the Saginaw Spirit 6-2 at the Sleeman Centre

They just keep finding a way to win.

The Guelph Storm simply outworked the Saginaw Spirit Friday night at the Sleeman Centre, coming away with a 6-2 win against a bigger, older team that is supposed to be having the kind of season Guelph is.

The win leaves the Storm all alone in first place in the OHL's Western Conference.

"We're not going to give any of the wins back," joked Storm coach George Burnett when asked if he thought his team would be sitting in first when the calendar hit December.

"We showed a lot of sloppiness at different times in the game, but there was good effort, good compete and some timely goals."

The turning point of the game came in the opening minute of the second period, when a scrappy line of Jacob Roach, Cooper Walker and Matt Papais worked their butts off on the forecheck, twice stealing the puck off Saginaw defencemen, before Roach scored his first of two goals and giving Guelph a lead for good.

For the second game in a row, the line of two 17-year-old rookies (Papais and Walker) and a 19-year-old free agent (Roach) was the best ice on the ice.

"I thought the game changed in the first shift of the second period with the Roach, Walker, Papais line," Burnett said. "They got a goal off some great forecheck pressure ... just nice to see them rewarded for some terrific hard work."

Roach, who also had an assist Friday, said he's starting to feel comfortable at the OHL level after a couple of years in junior B.

"It feels good to get the monkey off my back a little bit. I've been struggling to get points and put goals in the back of the net," he said. "Twenty three games in now, so I think my confidence has to be there."

Roach doesn't care who he plays with, having spent time on a number of different line combos thus far.

"The other day I got to jump up to play with Gogolev and Bakanov the other day and obviously I just play with whoever the coach tells me to, but I love playing with McFarlane, Papais, Walker ... young guys but they work hard and that kind of fits into my game as well," Roach said.

"With a couple of guys out of the lineup here a couple of secondary guys had to step up and I thought everyone did a good job of working their defence hard and ultimately getting us the win in the end," Roach said.

Already missing overagers Fedor Gordeev and Cedric Ralph, both out likely until after Christmas, the team was without Ben McFarlane Friday due to injury. On Monday they will lose defenceman Daniil Chayka for seven games as he heads off to play for Russia at the World Junior A Challenge.

Guelph plays in Kitchener on Sunday afternoon.