James McEwan has played the vast majority of his 230 career OHL games as a forward.
But with the Guelph Storm down to five defenceman thanks to a three-game suspension to Ryan Merkley, the team turned to McEwan to exchange his forward-thinking ways for a more defensive-minded approach this week.
The overager turned in his second straight solid night filling in on the Storm blueline Friday as the Storm downed the Saginaw Spirit 4-3 in overtime at the Sleeman Centre.
Isaac Ratcliffe won it with a wrist shot from the slot with just 28 seconds left in the bonus hockey. It was Ratcliffe's 30th goal of the season.
"It's a new challenge. I like it actually. It gives you a new perspective on things, that's for sure," McEwan said after the thrilling win.
"I look at it in a different way and I think it helps me be a better forward because now I know when the defence gets frustrated at the forwards," he said with a laugh.
McEwan, who is paired with fellow overager Garrett McFadden, did fill in in a pinch last season, but this is the first time he has played a stretch of games as a defenceman. That helps, he said. allowing him to get a practice in back there and make the mental adjustments.
"Playing with Garrett definitely helps a lot," McEwan said.
Asked agreed that he has to stop himself from thinking like a forward on occasion.
"Sometimes I want to jump up into the rush and then I realize I'll probably get burned."
Storm coach George Burnett was impressed not only with McEwan's play, but in his willingness to sacrifice himself and switch position.
"He's done a great job for us the last couple of nights," Burnett said.
"He's playing for a pro contract and not everybody's going to want to do that. It says a lot about the young man that he's willing to say 'whatever I need to do, I'm happy to go back there and do that.'"
Guelph got shorthanded goals by Cedric Ralph and Cam Hillis and a power play goal by Dmitri Samorukov in regulation.
They led 3-2 late in the game before a power play goal by Saginaw's Nick Porco tied the game.
Friday's win helped the Storm keep pace with the London Knights, who also won Friday. The two are tied for fourth in the Western Conference standings, setting up a big game between the two Sunday afternoon in Guelph.
"The kids understand that they're important games," Burnett said.
"One of the things I've learned over the years is that if it's early in February and you're standing in front of your team saying 'you gotta' win ... you gotta win ... this is playoffs,' I think they know that and you have to be careful that you're not overdoing it," Burnett said.