Anthony Popovich has waited a while for the big moment, but it finally came Sunday at the Sleeman Centre: his first Ontario Hockey League shutout.
“It’s pretty relieving to get that out of the way,” said Popovich after stopping all 37 shots in a 4-0 win over the London Knights Sunday at the Sleeman Centre.
“It’s kinda’ hard not to think about it when you’re out there, but it was kind of nice when the guys got those third and fourth goals. I saw on the bench that they were all trying really hard for me, so thanks to them.”
“To be honest, coming into this game that’s not what I expected, but I just felt good.”
Sunday’s blanking of the Knights lowered Popovich’s goals-against average to 2.69 and boosted his save percentage to .921
It was also Popovich’s seventh win of the season, matching his total for all last season.
The team’s undisputed number one goalie this season said knowing that one bad game or one bad period will mean less playing time helps him mentally.
“I think it helps. It gives me confidence that the coaches have confidence in me and all the players around me have confidence in me. It just feels good to be in that role,” the undrafted 18-year-old Belleville native said.
Popovich said he learned a lot last season and feels more mature this year.
“I think everybody on this team has grown. We’ve grown as a team,” he said.
Guelph got the only goal it would need Sunday 6:05 into the second period, when Cam Hillis took a pass from Alexey Toropchenko then made a pretty move to go around the defender before beating Joseph Raaymakers.
Ryan Merkley, shorthanded, made it 2-0 before the end of the period, then Nate Schnarr and James McEwan polished things off with third period goals.
Raaymakers had won all four of his starts prior to Sunday since joining London from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in a trade.
The win puts the Storm (7-6-0-1) above .500 and in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, one back of the fifth-place Kitchener Rangers, who they visit Friday.
Next home game for Guelph isn’t until Nov. 10 versus the Sudbury Wolves.