Tag Bertuzzi didn’t have much reason to smile last year.
The highly-regarded Guelph Storm forward with the famous name on his back struggled through an injury-plagued rookie season that saw him score just three goals.
He matched that total Friday night at the Sleeman Centre, scoring his third of the season and adding two assists in a 6-3 win over the Owen Sound Attack.
It was the Storm’s fifth straight victory and they scored six times in each of the wins.
“I think the difference is Bert’s having success. He’s skating well and he’s getting to open spaces,” Storm coach George Burnett said.
“Bert’s got a smile on his face and he’s being rewarded for some really hard work.”
Burnett has been mixing the team’s younger players onto lines with veterans, spreading around the youth and hoping to create some balance.
That recipe certainly seems to have clicked for the 17-year-old Bertuzzi, who seems to have benefited greatly from the arrival of overage centre Dom Commisso, his new linemate for the past three games who had three assists Friday.
“RIght after he got traded here we got put on a line together and we’ve had pretty good chemistry,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s nice to play with a player that can move the puck like that. It’s been working out so far.
“When you’re able to play with such high talented players who can move the puck and be so good on the ice, it makes it easier to play out there,” said Bertuzzi, who now has five points in seven games after tallying 11 all last season.
Bertuzzi credits his conditioning over the summer and improved mental state coming into the season as part of the reason for his success.
“Plus we’re winning,” he said. “It’s positive in the room and it’s nice to go on the ice and have a smile on your face.”
The other winger on the line with Bertuzzi and Commisso, Alexey Toropchenko, scored what proved to be the winning goal at 7:05 of the third period Friday, taking an alley oop pass from Commisso and beating Owen Sound goaltender Mack Guzda on the breakaway.
That goal made it a 4-2 game at the time.
The Attack’s Daylon Groulx scored his second of the game shortly after to make it a one-goal game, but a seeing eye wrister along the ice by Ryan Merkley went between the legs of a screened Guzda with just under seven minutes remaining to restore the two-goal cushion.
The Storm’s Nate Schnarr had two assists Friday, giving him points in all seven of the team’s games this year.
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