Nichols perfect as Storm blank rival Rangers
by Matt Pelkey
If you’re not sure what a 60-minute, complete team-effort game looks like, just watch the Guelph Storm’s 3-0 win over the Kitchener Rangers Sunday afternoon at the Sleeman Centre.
Justin Nichols registered a 32-save shutout while Tyler Bertuzzi (two) and Ben Harpur scored in Guelph’s third-straight home win. Kitchener’s Dawson Carty turned aside 25 shots in the loss.
The story of the game was the full team-effort the Storm gave, as every player contributed in some form or another to the victory. Its offence got them ahead, their defence played a tight-checking game, and their goaltender was perfect as they handed the Rangers their first regulation loss in 16 games.
The third meeting of the year between the two teams began just the way one would expect from a couple of Highway 7 rivals. Both teams flew out of the gates with speed and finished every hit they could. Just about every time a goalie froze the puck, players gathered around the net for a post-whistle scrum.
Zac Leslie was a target early on for the Rangers as he was often sought after in the rough stuff, before he and Kitchener’s Liam Masskant dropped the gloves at the end of the period.
It was the Storm who would manage to break open the scoring, though, when Harpur found himself alone at the blueline with the puck on his stick six minutes into the game. With no Rangers players in his vicinity, Harpur, who finished the game with three points, wound up and unloaded a cannon of a shot past Carty to give Guelph a 1-0 lead.
The period saw Guelph kill off numerous penalties before getting a few power plays of their own, including a 5-on-3 in the late seconds of the opening frame. Despite some quality opportunies to extend their lead, the Storm couldn’t convert before the buzzer and would head to the intermission with a 1-0 lead while still on a 5-on-3 power play.
Guelph power play struggles continued in the second as the Storm couldn’t capitalize on a 5-on-3 man advantage for 2:52.
With Nichols holding down the fort at the other end of the rink, Bertuzzi would give Guelph an insurance goal with under four minutes to play in the middle frame. Bertuzzi snuck down low to the Rangers crease where Fabbri, who was behind the net, fed the puck out front to Bertuzzi who one-timed it past Kitchener goaltender Carty. The goal gave the Storm a 2-0 lead to head into the intermission outshooting the Rangers 19-18.
The third period started off with the same theme that has been present all game: physical, tight-defence hockey. The Storm, who could have easily just focused on preserving the lead, found themselves creating many scoring opportunities as they searched for a three-goal cushion.
Kitchener would also spend some heavy time in the Guelph zone as they tried to get within a goal of the Storm. With 14 shots in the third period, the Rangers tested Nichols with everything they had, including a flurry of last-minute shots with Carty on the bench for the extra skater.
The Guelph defence, though, stood tall and kept the Rangers’ offence to the outside for the majority of the game.
Bertuzzi would net his second of the game on an empty-net with one second left in the game to give the Storm a 3-0 win over their Highway 7 rivals.
With the shutout, Nichols ties former Storm goalie Ryan MacDonald for 5th all-time on the Storm shutout list, with five. The loss was the Rangers’ first regulation loss in 16 games.
The Storm improve to 12-9-0-1 as the Rangers drop to 12-3-2-4.
Guelph hits the road for the next four games before hosting the Peterborough Petes on Friday, December 5 at 7:00 PM. The game is the Guelph Mercury Books for Kids promotion, where fans can donate new books for local youth on their way into the game.
Storm have won 6 of their last 7 home games vs the Rangers, dating back to 12-13 season.
Phil Baltisberger returned to the Storm lineup after missing their last game while serving a suspension.
Tyler Boston played in his 1st game since suffering an injury on Oct. 21, missing 12 games.
In 6 career games vs Kitchener, Justin Nichols is perfect with a 5-0 record, a .980 SV% and a with a 0.665 GAA.
The Storm snapped the Rangers’ 16-game point streak.
- Tonight’s game was presented by The Home Depot.
Kitchener Rangers 0 at Guelph Storm 3 – Status: Final
Sunday, November 23, 2014 – Sleeman Centre
Kitchener 0 0 0 – 0
Guelph 1 1 1 – 3
1st Period-1, Guelph, Harpur 4 (Fabbri, Marchese), 5:38. Penalties-McFadden Gue (high sticking), 7:42; Harpur Gue (interference), 9:54; McFadden Gue (slashing), 14:27; Bailey Kit (slashing), 18:52; Blaisdell Kit (high sticking, high sticking), 19:19; Maaskant Kit (slashing, fighting), 20:00; Leslie Gue (fighting), 20:00.
2nd Period-2, Guelph, Bertuzzi 12 (Fabbri, Harpur), 16:29. Penalties-Baltisberger Gue (cross checking), 5:37; Magyar Kit (tripping), 7:55; Blaisdell Kit (slashing), 9:30.
3rd Period-3, Guelph, Bertuzzi 13 (Harpur, Leslie), 19:58 (EN). Penalties-McFadden Gue (delay of game), 9:15; Franzen Kit (hooking), 10:21; Craievich Gue (high sticking), 13:42.
Shots on Goal-Kitchener 12-6-14-32. Guelph 6-13-8-27.
Power Play Opportunities-Kitchener 0 / 6; Guelph 0 / 7.
Goalies-Kitchener, Carty 6-1-1-2 (26 shots-24 saves). Guelph, Nichols 11-7-0-1 (32 shots-32 saves).
Referees-Joe Monette (25), T.J. Foster (29).
Linesmen-Geoff Rutherford (62), Dustin McCrank (68).
3) GUE Ben Harpur (1g, 2a)
2) GUE Robby Fabbri (2a)
1) Justin Nichols (32 saves)