Rangers quickly end OT against Storm
KITCHENER — It’s an hour and a half before puck drop and the mood is light on the visitor’s side at the Aud.
Members of the Guelph Storm are smiling as they exit the team bus. Some exchange laughs as they make a run to a nearby Tim Hortons for a pre-game beverage.
It has only been two days since the Ontario Hockey League club put the finishing touches on a roster remake that has taken the Storm from competitor to championship contender.
But the changes are palpable. “It’s hard to find words for it,” said Storm forward Nathan Schnarr. “Not only does your confidence go up but you get a little bit of a swagger walking into rinks.”
Schnarr, a Waterloo native, has endured some lean years since the Storm selected him in the third round in the 2015 OHL draft.
During his rookie campaign, the Royal City bunch managed just 13 wins and finished last in the 20-team league. As a sophomore, Guelph improved but still didn’t get out of the basement in the western conference.
Last season they ended up finishing seventh in the west.
“It has been tough,” said Schnarr, who was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes. “I’ve been here for some frustrating years. Now it’s time to really go for it. It’s unreal to see that our ownership and everyone believes we can do it. Now it’s our turn to prove that we can.”
But the much hyped squad couldn’t solve the Rangers Friday at the Aud, falling 4-3 in overtime.
Guelph had a 2-0 lead in the second period before the Blueshirts battled back. Jonathan Yantsis potted his team-high 29th on the power play and Rickard Hugg added the equalizer with 41 seconds to go in the stanza.
Rookie Isaac Langdon looked to have the game-winner in the third but Guelph veteran Isaac Langdon tied things up with 2:31 left in the tilt. Riley Damiani capped the 4-3 overtime victory just 13 seconds into extra time to snap Kitchener’s three-game losing streak.
The changes to Guelph’s roster are staggering.
The club acquired two Canadian world junior forwards in Nick Suzuki (Owen Sound) and Mackenzie Entwistle (Hamilton). The back end was boosted by Team Canada defenceman Markus Phillips and Sean Durzi, who also came over from the Attack.
If that wasn’t enough, blueliner Fedor Gordeev (Flint) and veteran Zachary Roberts (Owen Sound) were added too.
“I was hoping for a couple of guys,” said Schnarr. “You look at the talent we have in our dressing room and it’s unbelievable. It makes you practise better and push each other more. The gym is better, the atmosphere is better, everything.”
And all those years of grinding it out? They’re all worth it now.
“Guelph gave us every opportunity to develop when we were younger,” said Schnarr. “It’s all about patience. Right now you look at and it’s paying off huge. I think the sky is the limit for us.”
Kitchener returns to the ice Sunday when they host the London Knights at 2 p.m.
The Kitchener Rangers’ Riley Damiani, left, was turned away by Guelph goalie Nico Daws on this chance, but he got the last word in overtime.