by Eric Balnar
A night that began with a celebration ended with a tough loss for this year’s Guelph Storm in their season opening game.
The Belleville Bulls had six different scorers en route to a 6-0 win.
The night started on a high note for Guelph. The Storm unveiled their championship banners – for winning the Midwest Division, OHL Regular Season, Western Conference and OHL Championship – before puck drop in front of an energetic crowd. Former Storm captain Matt Finn was even on hand to reveal the banners.
But the Belleville Bulls quickly planned a celebration of their own.
After a slow opening 10 minutes, the Bulls exploded for four goals in the last half of the frame to put Guelph in an early hole.
With just over 8 minutes to play in the first, Remi Elie drilled a shot around the boards to the top of the circle on the far boards. Unfortunately it was right to the stick of Jordan Subban who rifled home a shot to the back of the net.
Then the Storm ran into penalty trouble and the Bulls took full advantage.
With the Bulls on a 5-on-3 advantage, Justin Lemcke fed a cross-ice pass to Niki Petti who rifled in a one timer to make it 2-0. Moments later Remi Elie scored to extend the lead to 3-0.
Subban capped off a wonderful 2-point first period with a nice drop pass to Stephen Harper who wired a shot in from the point to make it 4-0 after one for the first period.
Matthew Mancina replaced Justin Nichols in the second period but saw limited action, facing only 6 shots in the second period.
Guelph had their chances in the middle period but failed to convert. They had a 5-on-3 advantage for nearly 50 seconds late in the second period but Charlie Graham stood tall and stymied the Storm.
Justin Lemcke added even more cushion for the Bulls early in the third period. His point shot took a strange deflection, bounced 20 feet in the air and found its way to the back of the Storm net.
Chad Heffernan also scored for the Bulls in the third to round out the scoring.
Charlie Graham was excellent in net for Belleville. The Bulls’ net minder turned aside all 31 shots he faced. It was another fantastic performance for Graham vs. the Storm. Last year he had 67 saves in a 6-5 win.
Guelph will look for the first win of the year later this weekend. They hit the road for an afternoon contest in Windsor on Sunday afternoon.
Guelph’s next home game is Friday, October 3 vs. the Plymouth Whalers in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference quarter-finals.
– Former Storm captain Matt Finn was on hand to unveil Guelph’s four championship banners pregame with Justin Auger and Zac Leslie. The Storm raised banners commemorating their 2014 Midwest Division, Regular Season, Western Conference and OHL Championships.
– Entering Friday’s game, Guelph had won their last four home openers and is unbeaten in regulation in their #last 6 (5-0-0-1). Their home-opener loss came in 2007 when they fell 4-1 to the Soo Greyhounds
– Guelph was without four key veterans in their lineup. Jason Dickinson (Dallas) and Robby Fabbri (St. Louis) are with their respective NHL clubs while Justin Auger and Zac Leslie are en route to AHL Training camp with the Manchester Monarchs (LA Kings)
– With four players not returned from NHL camps, the Storm dressed eight rookies. The Storm started rookie defenseman Kyle Rhodes at forward to try to replace the spots left at forward.
– Guelph was shut out for first time since February 23, 2013