It would have been easy for Ryan Gottschalk and Chris Van Laren to mail in the rest of the season once they were traded to the Guelph Storm in January.
Gottschalk was in the final year of his OHL career with the Memorial Cup-contending Barrie Colts. Van Laren was a 19-year-old with the Sudbury Wolves.
Van Laren was in his third season in Sudbury, Gottschalk in his fourth in Barrie. Both left behind good situations and good friends.
But rather than mope about their fortunes, both took the opposite approach. They stepped into an underachieving Guelph lineup and have played key roles in the team’s turnaround the past two months.
“I knew that Guelph had a chance to make the playoffs when I got here,” Van Laren said prior to practice Wednesday at the Sleeman Centre. “I had no idea how well we were going to do, but coming in and seeing the big names and the star power on this team, I thought we had the firepower to get in the playoffs.”
Gottschalk said it crossed his mind that he might not make the playoffs when he came to Guelph, but that quickly changed into a realization the team was much better than its record at the time.
“We have a lot of skill and talent. This team underachieved and I knew that this team could easily make it to the playoffs it got its act together,” Gottschalk said.
Guelph is 16-8-1-0 since the trade deadline, making them one of the top teams in the OHL over that span.
“Some teams left it to about a month ago to try and start picking it up, but we said in January that we didn’t want to leave it to the end because we’d be screwed. We knew we had to start playing better right then.” Gottschalk said.