Jake Karabela is starting to feel at home in more ways than one these days.
The Guelph Storm rookie forward, who is also a Guelph native, had a pair of goals and an assist Friday night at the Sleeman Centre in a 6-4 pre-season win over the Niagara IceDogs.
The Storm scored four times in the third to fuel the win.
Karabela’s second goal, the eventual game winner, came at 16:45 of the third.
He now has three goals and five points in three pre-season games.
“We were practicing for over a year now, so we’re definitely pumped up for the games and we’re ready to go,” said Karabela after the game, played in front of a crowd of roughly 500.
“The first couple of shifts the legs are still a little shaky. We’re still getting used to the pace, but for the most part we’re getting used to it out there now.”
He said now the excitement is taking the place of the nerves.
“We get along great, we’re great in the room and it good in practice. Everybody loves each other,” Karabela said.
A second round pick in 2020, Karabela, 17, carries himself on and off the ice with an air of confidence, something not lost on coach George Burnett.
“I think he’s going to turn a lot of heads this year,” the Storm coach said of Karabela.
“He’s confident. I don’t believe it’s cockiness, he’s just a confident young man who loves to play hockey and loves to be on the ice. I think the sky is the limit on what he can accomplish.”
Burnett said that with Karabela being a local they were able to see him a fair bit over the pandemic break.
“He’s playing out of position, he’s a centreman playing out on the wing, but he’s very intelligent, very smart … his overall strength for a young guy, especially in the lower half, allows him to win a lot of battles,” the Storm coach said.
“I think he’s going to turn a lot of heads this year.”
Guelph scored four times in just under four minutes of the third to pull out the win Friday.
Karabela was quick to give credit to teammate Chase Coughlan in picking the team up early in the third when he dropped the gloves for a spirited tilt with IceDogs defenceman Dakota Betts. The 16-year-old Coughlan handled himself well against the 20-year-old Betts.
“That big fight by Chaser got the legs under the boys a little bit more,” Karabela said. “That takes a lot of (guts),” he said of taking on a player four years his senior in a fight.
Danny Zhilkin also had a pair of goals for Guelph, with singles going to Cameron Allen and Braeden Bowman.
Owen Bennett and Jacob Oster split the Storm goaltending duties Friday, both making some good saves, with Bennett stopping 13 of 15 shots and Oster nine of 11.
“I like the energy. We have to use it properly. We have to maybe manage it a bit better,” Burnett said.
“Love the energy, we just have to make sure we’re not wasting the energy”
The Storm won’t be making any final cuts until it gets all its players in town.
Russian import Valentin Zhugin is expected to arrive Monday night, Michael Bianconi’s delayed arrival ends Sunday night and four players - Daniil Chayka, Sasha Pastujov, Luka Profaca and Cooper Walker are still away at National Hockey League camps.
Guelph plays in Niagara Saturday then play in Mississauga Thursday before wrapping up the pre-season Friday, Oct. 1, at home against Missisauga.