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Guelph Storm slides into Christmas break in first place (10 photos)

Guelph falls 5-2 in Oshawa, it's second loss in a row, but still sits in first place in the Western Conference

OSHAWA — They'll take it.

Despite entering the holiday break on a two-game losing skid, the latest setback being a 5-2 loss in Oshawa Sunday night, the Guelph Storm has to be pretty thrilled with their first half of the season.

A team many felt wouldn't make the playoffs goes into the 13-day break in first place in the Western Conference, a pretty remarkable achievement for a team that has also been missing several key players the past few weeks.

"I think they should be quite proud of the overall body of work for 28 or 29 nights out of 31. There aren't too many things that we can be disappointed about," said Storm coach George Burnett of the big picture.

"Our team's much different than the one we've seen the last seven games," he said of the team's 4-3 record over that segment.

Of course first place in the West is a tenuous perch.

After Sunday's action just 12 points separate first from last and just eight points separate first from the last playoff spot.

"It says a lot about the parity of the Western conference right now," Burnett said. "You're a couple of weekends away from being on top of the standings and a couple of weekends from being at the bottom, depending on how things go."

The dog-tired and undermanned Storm put up a good fight for 40 minutes Sunday at Oshawa's Tribute Communities Centre, entering the third period down 2-1, but collapsed in the third.

It was one of the few games where the team's young defence was exposed and it was another night where the team's power play couldn't bale it out when the chances at even strength were few and far between.

Pavel Gogolev and Josh Wainman had power play goals early, but overall the team went two-for-eight, including a lengthy two-man advantage late.

Owen Bennett turned in a decent performance in net, making 30 saves, but the Generals got some high-quality chances that they buried, while Guelph struggled to generate chances of any quality.

"We're going to park tonight's game and probably last night's as well. That's not our hockey club," Burnett said following Sunday's game.

"We've got to be careful not to overreact to what we've seen the last couple of nights. It's a tough situation for a bunch of young kids on the back end and we're asking some kids to do some things that we probably shouldn't be."

Burnett said people have to be fair to the players and to get upset and angry about Sunday's loss would tear down a lot of the good things that have been accomplished.

The Storm's next game is Dec. 28 in Peterborough. By that time they expect Fedor Gordeev, Cedric Ralph and Daniil Chayka to all be back in the lineup.