MISSISSAUGA - It looked like it was going to be a cakewalk.
Up 2-0 early in the game. Outshooting their opponent 18-8 after 20 minutes. Dominating puck possession.
But things changed in a hurry for the Guelph Storm Thursday night at the Hershey Centre.
The Mississauga Steelheads went on a 5-1 scoring run as the momentum of the game completely shifted, then weathered a late Storm rally to down Guelph 6-5.
With games this weekend at home against Owen Sound Friday and in North Bay on Sunday, this was probably seen as the easy one against the Fish, who sit seventh in the Eastern Conference.
“We came out strong. We had one of our best first periods in a long time and we were controlling the play. We did what we wanted to do,” said Storm forward Nate Schnarr.
“Then I think we all got a little trigger happy. When we got up by a couple of goals it was like ‘alright, let’s worry about getting points,’” Schnarr said.
That meant neglecting their own end of the rink, as the Storm completely fell apart as a team defensively.
After a solid opening 30 minutes, Storm goaltender Anthony Popovich got lit up before being replaced in the third period, allowing six goals on 29 shots.
But this wasn’t all about goaltending. The team defensive zone coverage was brutal.
“There wasn’t a lot of team defence at both ends,” said Storm coach George Burnett.
“They’re too high powered a team for us not to be more efficient, more supportive and be a lot stronger on the puck.
“We have to match their speed and not let their big boys play with the kind of pace that they did in the second period,” Burnett said.
Former Storm forward Albert Michnac scored a pair of goals for Mississauga, giving him 19 on the season.
Mississauga also got some luck.
Their fifth goal came when a pedestrian point shot by Nick Hague that was going six feet wide of the net hit Storm forward Liam Hawel, who was covering his man at the time, and deflected past Popovich.
Late goals by Schnarr and Isaac Ratcliffe made things interesting, pulling the Storm within one, but the comeback fell short, neutered perhaps by a late holding penalty on Garrettt McFadden with 91 seconds left in the third.
A last gasp for the visitors came with 30 seconds on the clock and the Storm shorthanded, but a two-on-one was broken up when Cam Hillis’s cross-ice pass attempt was deflected out of harm’s way.
“Popper (Popovich) made some big saves in the first and second period to allow us to get that lead, but we can’t rely on him every night to bail us out,” Schnarr said. “We have to play a team game with tight defence.”