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Leaner Nico Daws ready to seize the opportunity in Guelph Storm net (8 photos)

Guelph Storm opens the regular season with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa 67's

Nico Daws' off-season efforts to come to training camp in better shape this season paid instant dividends for the Guelph Storm.

Daws, now the Storm's starting goaltender, dropped 25 pounds over the summer with an improved diet and workout regimen.

He said he felt better on the ice Friday night than he did at any point last season.

"I think if that was me in net last season, I don't know if I'm coming out with a point," the six-foot-four, 204-pound Daws said after the game, which was preceded by a banner-raising ceremony.

He needed the improved conditioning Friday night as the Storm opened the 2019-2020 regular season with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa 67's in a rematch of last season's OHL championship series.

"I had a really good off-season. I lost about 20 to 25 pounds almost," he said of how he wanted to come to camp and take advantage of the fact the starting job was his for the taking.

"I think it motivated me to be the best that I could be," he said.

Daws made 39 saves in the game.

Austen Keating and Cameron Tolnai scored for Ottawa in the shootout while Keegan Stevenson was the lone Storm player to beat Ottawa goaltender Cedric Andree.

The game ended when Guelph's Andrei Bakanov dinged one off the post.

Guelph rookie Danny Zhilkin scored his first goal on his first shot on net early in the first period and Pavel Gogolev had Guelph's other goal.

The Storm had plenty of chances to win the game late in the game and in overtime, but Andree was brilliant down the stretch, most notably on an unbelievable glove save on Guelph defenceman Owen Lalonde with seconds left on the clock.

But overall it was a solid effort by the rookie-laden Storm against a 67's team that is expected to be one of the top teams in the league this season.

"It was interesting to say the least," Storm coach George Burnett said.

"There were mistakes out there and as the guy behind the bench I have to be careful that I'm not coaching the team I was a year ago. I've got to be positive, reinforcing and teaching, but I think we can learn a lot of good things tonight.

"There were a lot of really good performances and Dawsy was terrific."

Burnett gave Daws lots of credit for putting the work in over the summer.

"I think he understood that if he was going to be a goaltender moving forward then he was going to have to make a name for himself this year and he's done everything and more. It's nice to see him get rewarded.

"Nico's paid his dues. It's time for him to show that he can win hockey games on a consistent basis in the league."

The Storm has the rest of the weekend off. Next action is Friday when the Owen Sound Attack visits.