School was in for the young Guelph Storm players Friday night at the Sleeman Centre.
Playing against a big, fast and talented Hamilton Bulldogs squad, the younger Storm players struggled in a 6-3 loss, Guelph’s first taste of defeat after two straight wins to start the season.
Rookie blueliners Ryan Merkley and Dmitri Samorukov had particularly rough nights. Merkley finished at minus-4 and Samorukov was minus-2.
“They came in waves at us. That’s the fastest we’ve seen yet this year,” Storm coach Jarrod Skalde said.
“Great learning experience, lot of great teaching things from this game to go over in video,” Skalde said.
The coach said the team practiced moving quickly out of its own end all week, anticipating Hamilton’s speed and hoping to ease the pressure on the young defencemen, but it didn’t work out that way.
Guelph led early on an Isaac Ratcliffe goal a minute into the game, but Hamilton struck for three quick goals in a span of just over five minutes in the first period to take the lead for good.
“You’ve got to give that team credit. They’re a fast team. We couldn’t handle their speed,” Skalde said.
“Then again, I think our battle level didn’t match theirs tonight.”
The game was 4-2 after 20 minutes as neither goaltender – Liam Herbst for Guelph and Kaden Fulcher for Hamilton – looked particularly sharp.
The second period was scoreless.
“We’ve been doing a lot of good things but a lot of mistakes as well,” said Storm forward Matt Hotchkiss.
“The mistakes show more against the better teams. They capitalized on our mistakes.”
Hotchkiss had a goal and an assist for Gueph, giving him two goals and two assists in the team’s first three games.
“It’s nothing to do with me. It’s the team,” Hotchkiss said. “We’re playing well offensively and we’re getting lots of shots. We just have to tighten up our defensive zone and figuring out our systems and perfecting them.”
Ratcliffe had a goal and assist and James McEwan had Guelph’s other goal.
Michael Cramarossa led Hamilton with a pair of goals.
Storm defenceman Garrett McFadden left the game early after taking a shot off his leg. He didn’t return.
The Storm plays in Owen Sound Saturday night. Next home game is Friday when the Windsor Spitfires visit.