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Opportunity knocks for Guelph Storm's Owen Bennett (6 photos)

Rookie backup goaltender gets to start a bunch of games now that Nico Daws is off to the World Juniors

The great news for Nico Daws was also great news for Owen Bennett.

When Daws was named to the national junior team on Thursday, it meant his backup Bennett was the new Guelph Storm starting goaltender, at least for 10 games.

Bennett made it two for two Friday, making many big saves late as the first-place Storm downed the Windsor Spitfires 6-3 at the Sleeman Centre.

"You know what? Since Day 1, as soon as he was invited to camp I knew he was making the team," Bennett said of how long it took him to sink in he was the new starter.

"I've seen him practice. The way he was playing in games. As soon as I heard I knew that there was no way he wasn't making it and I started getting more competitive in practice, getting ready for this.

"Obviously it's a great opportunity for me to get in the net and kind of show what I'm worth here and get some starts in," said Bennett after making 35 saves in Friday's win.

It's a golden opportunity for Bennett in his draft year.

"I don't think I expected to get this stretch, but I'll take it," Bennett said.

Storm coach George Burnett said it's a great opportunity for the young goaltender.

"I think he made a few more saves tonight than I would have liked, but for the first 45 or 50 minutes we kept their shot totals down a little bit," Burnett said.

Bennett started a handful of games earlier this season when Daws was hurt and Burnett thinks that was helpful for the stretch to come.

"He played well and I think he got whatever a young goalie is going to experience in his first year out of the way before the league was really going strong and hard," Burnett said.

"Nico has created an opportunity based on his work and now Owen is taking an opportunity in his absence."

Guelph did a pretty good job of containing Windsor most of the night, never trailing in the game.

Windsor did mount a flurry of shots in the final two minutes-plus, with goaltender Xavier Medina on the bench, but Bennett made a few solid saves and a Jacob Roach empty net goal sealed the win.

Pavel Gogolev had two goals for the Storm, giving him 22 on the season. Keegan Stevenson, Andrei Bakanov (back on the top line) and Clark Hiebert, with his first OHL goals, had the others.

Gogolev's goal at 7:48 of the third period, a beautiful move to undress a Windsor defenceman before beating Medina, proved to be the game winner, making it 4-2 at the time.

It doesn't get any easier for the Storm Saturday as they host the red-hot Kitchener Rangers in the Teddy Bear Toss game at the Sleeman Centre Saturday afternoon starting at 2 p.m. Kitchener won its eighth straight Friday night, downing the Hamilton Bulldogs 9-6.

On Sunday Guelph wraps up its first half with a game in Oshawa.


Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 20 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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