For 40 minutes the Guelph Storm looked pretty good Friday night.
A rock-solid opening 20 minutes and a decent final 20 minutes were overshadowed by a nightmare of a second period, as the Saginaw Spirit scored four unanswered goals in a 4-2 win over the Storm at the Sleeman Centre.
Adding insult to injury, two of those goals came in the final 70 seconds of the middle frame.
"Absolutely that's something we do have to work on is our consistency," said Storm overage defenceman Jake Murray. "We had a pretty good stretch there after Christmas and we seem to have fallen off now.
"It's a matter of doing things right. We know how we have to play ... we know when we're most successful and that's what we have to get back to."
The Storm led 1-0 after the first period on Max Namestnikov's 22nd goal of the season.
It was a great opening 20 minutes on the heels of a brutal loss in Sarnia Wednesday night. Much of it was spent cycling down low in the Saginaw zone as the Storm got back to the simple bump and grind hockey that they usually benefit from.
But things started slipping away in the second thanks to some penalty trouble and an unlucky rebound off the end boards that went to a Saginaw player's stick on the opposite side of the net and was quickly deposited.
What really hurt were goals by the Spirit's Calum Mangone and Luke McNamara in the final 70 seconds of the period.
Valentin Zhugin made it 4-2 with 7:06 left in regulation, but it was too little too late, as Guelph managed just 14 shots on net over the final two periods.
"The first part of the second period wasn't too bad, but that last 10 we let our foot off the gas and we can't afford to do that at this point of the year," Murray said.
The Storm played a three-in-three last weekend, had a mid-week game, now play three games in four days over the long weekend.
"It's a grind, but one thing we can't do is let up at all, and that's what we did in that last two minutes there. That's when we just have to know what's important."
Patrick Leaver went all the way in net for Guelph, making some brilliant saves but also likely letting in at least one he'd like to have back, a Zayne Parekh wrister from a sharp angle.
Tristan Lennox made 21 saves for the Spirit, who moved up into fourth place in the conference standings with the victory.
Storm coach Chad Wiseman said the team got away from what made them so successful in the first period.
"We responded well in the first period, and maybe we felt a little bit too good about ourselves and that it's going to be easy if we just go back out there," Wiseman said of the difference between the first and the second.
"Sometimes you can't explain why that happens," Wiseman said.
Guelph is in Oshawa Saturday night then home to Owen Sound on Monday afternoon in a 2 p.m. Family Day start.