MISSISSAUGA – With four weeks to go before the start of the regular season, the Guelph Storm has trimmed its roster down to near-opening night numbers.
That roster sits at 24 players (13 forwards, eight defencemen, three goalies), and that includes defenceman Cam Allen, who is out until the new year after shoulder surgery, and third-string goaltender Ethan Kowatsch. A working group of 22 gives them one extra forward and an extra defenceman, the usual complement heading into the season.
There is the chance the team adds an experienced player, given the forward group includes four rookies.
Guelph played its first of six exhibition games Friday night, falling 3-2 in a shootout to the Mississauga Steelheads in Mississauga. Sunday the same two teams meet in Ayr.
"Ideally you want to get down to your team as quickly as you can and get down to work," Storm coach Chad Wiseman said.
"We're going to lose eight or so guys to NHL camps for anywhere from 10 days to two wees, so we want to do as much teaching as we can now as a group, because we might not have guys back until the start of the season."
The Storm has seven rookies on the roster, including four 16 year olds.
New goaltender Damian Slavik played two periods Friday and was very solid.
"He played really well. He made a couple of lateral saves early on or I thought they could have been up on us early," Wiseman said.
Slavik plays a composed, positional game, taking advantage of his 6'4" frame. Think a skinnier Niko Daws.
Gavin Grundner and Charlie Paquette had the goals for the Storm Friday while Slavik (first two periods) and Kowatsch split the goaltending duties. Mississauga outscored Guelph 2-0 in the shootout, as Max Namestniov and Braeden Bowman both failed on their shootout attempts.
Wil McFadden assisted on both Storm goals. Rylan Singh and Vilmer Alriksson also picked up helpers.
"I thought the pace was high and the execution was high ... and I thought our young kids tonight, our 16 year olds, did a really good job. This is a tough environment to come into: not the biggest rink, the lighting isn't the greatest and (Mississauga) is a fast, physical hockey team, so I was really impressed with out 16 year olds."
The game was played in one of the smaller rinks, not the main rink at the Paramount Sports Centre.
It also featured a pair of fights, as Guelph's Ryan McGuire and Jake Karabela were both involved.