It has been a rough stretch for the Guelph Storm.
They needed overtime Monday to beat the Western Conference's worst team (a spotty 5-4 over the Flint Firebirds) and have just five wins in their past 10 games.
With just 12 games remaining in the regular season, it's time to buckle down and get on a roll. The immediate future was sacrificed for a championship run and the team is loaded with proven, skilled and experienced players who just aren't playing up to their capabilities right now.
Has George Burnett ever been through something like this before in his long career?
"Yeah, I think about 22 years ago," said Burnett.
He was referring to the 1997-98 Guelph Storm team that ended up winning an OHL championship. That squad also went into a bit of a slump about the same point in its season, going 2-6-1 in a stretch at the beginning of February.
"There were some nights towards the end of that season where there weren't a lot of happy people leaving the rink," Burnett remembers.
"Leadership on that team, they were the difference makers, they were the guys that settled things down: the Hajts, the Malhotras, the Maddens and the Jackmans. Those were the kind of guys that took the bull by the horns and played the right way."
Burnett said it is going to take some patience, particularly on his part, "and I know that's not easy for some people to understand that."
"These guys didn't forget how to play overnight. We need our best players to be our leaders and our best players to do those things and I think everybody else follows along nicely," he said.
Monday's win over Flint was another struggle at home against a Flint squad that is only one point out of last place overall in the OHL and a team that had just 15 players dressed for the game.
Yet there they were, forcing overtime after tying the game midway through the third period on a power play that came after Storm goaltender Nico Daws butt-ended Flint's Jake Durham at the side of the Storm net.
Daws received a match penalty and was booted from the game. The match penalty comes with an automatic two-game suspension and a review by the league.
Storm defenceman Dmitri Samorukov saved the day on a nice individual effort, cutting in from the wing and shielding the puck with his body before wristing it past Emanuel Vellalta in the Firebirds' net.
"A lot of penalties," said Samorukov of the game, "we played pretty good, it was just penalties, but we found a way to win and that's more important for us.
"We've got to be like one family and we've got to do what the coach is telling us," Samorukov said. "We've got to find something inside us too. We know what we have to do, it's just a hard time for us. We have to think like one family."
Samorukov was also asked about clearing a floating puck into the corner by heading it there like a soccer player.
"I didn't really know the rules with the hands, so I was kind of scared. I'm not a bad soccer player you know," he said with a laugh.
Guelph is now off until Friday when the Erie Otters visit the Sleeman Centre.