The Guelph Storm might have found their go-to line.
The trio of Cam Hillis, Isaac Ratcliffe and Alexey Toropchenko might be the reliable offensive combo the team has been looking for, supplying the consistency and skill a coach likes to know he can get from at least one of their lines.
That line accounted for four goals and eight points Friday night in a 5-3 victory over the Flint Firebirds at the Sleeman Centre.
“We’ve been on and off all year. When we go through a rough patch we switch it up a bit, but we always seem to find our way back together,” said Ratcliffe.
“You can obviously see that chemistry with a lot of good passes out there and we’re able to find each other on the ice.”
Ratcliffe had a hat trick and an assist Friday, Hillis three assists and Toropchenko a goal.
Two of the three are new to the league, never mind each other.
“We’ve had half a season to come together and it’s obviously starting to show now,” Ratcliffe said.
Storm coach George Burnett had plenty of praise for the line, most noticeably Toropchenko.
“I don’t think Torpo doesn’t get the kind of credit he deserves,” Burnett said.
“His points don’t show it right now and I know how frustrated and disappointed he is that he hasn’t scored more, but I also see how hard he works every day in trying to do the right things,” Burnett said.
Friday’s win wasn’t picture perfect.
Guelph jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period but spent much of the night nursing a one or two goal lead. They led 3-1 after one period and 4-2 after two.
For coach George Burnett there were way too many blue line turnovers and drop passes for a team that should have been playing a more conservative game.
“I don’t know why we would think we’re going to play like the Harlem Globetrotters, but sometimes we do that,”Burnett said. “It’s not the way to play and it’s not the way to learn how to win.
“It’s pretty when it works, but when it works one out of 10, or heads the other way in transition ....,” Burnett said, his voice trailing off.
“Regardless of the score, all the time, you have to play the full 60 minutes. We’re getting some of that, but we’re still not where we need or want to be. We get a couple of goals, we look at the standings … I think we feel some nights it’s going to be an easy night. But we haven’t had an easy night this year, nor should we.”
Guelph needed a monster save by Anthony Popovich late in the third period with the score 4-3 to help preserve the win as he went post to post to rob the Firebirds’ Connor Roberts.
Popovich made 36 saves in the game.
Ratcliffe’s power play goal with 2:18 left on the clock iced the game and brought down the hats from the stands.
Guelph plays in Owen Sound Saturday night and in London on Sunday afternoon.