Justin Nichols shines in Storm net to open OHL final
Turns aside 32 Battalion shots in 3-2 OT win
The Guelph Storm drew first blood in the Ontario Hockey League final, but head coach Scott Walker looked as if his team had just dropped the opener.
Jason Dickinson's goal 57 seconds into overtime gave the Storm a 3-2 win over the North Bay Battalion on Thursday for a 1-0 series lead. But Walker was far from happy with his team's performance.
"To be honest with you, we have to play better," Walker said. "We have to focus on winning our battles, skating more and we can't take for granted that we're here. They [the Battalion] earned their spot and we earned our spot. We have to start skating and start playing.
"We did it in the first and then it was like we weren't satisfied. There was something more out there, something better. There isn't anything better than what we were doing in the first."
The first period was all Guelph, as they outshot the Battalion 16-6 and beat them to pucks right from the opening faceoff. Holding the league's most potent offence scoreless in the first period seemed to give North Bay more confidence as the game went on.
Battalion head coach Stan Butler was happy with the way his team matched up against the heavily favoured Storm.
"I thought we played hard and it was a pretty even game. Once you get in overtime, one shot and it's done," Butler said. "They have a great team and that's the style we have to play. We have to play hard, we have to check up ice, track the puck hard and not give them time and space.
"If we sit back and watch like we did in the first period and allow them time and space, they'll do serious damage."
The Battalion benefited from the scoreless opening 20 minutes by taking it to the Storm in the second. They were rewarded early when Ben Thomson, on a power play, snapped a fat rebound past goalie Justin Nichols, who made 32 saves on the night, for a 1-0 lead at 3:06.
But Guelph's Brock McGinn evened the scored a minute later.
North Bay continued to play a tough defensive game, holding the Storm to just seven shots in the second period.
The Battalion regained the lead 3:35 into the third, as Jamie Lewis' wrist shot from the faceoff circle found the top corner past Nichols.
But Guelph made the most of the few scoring chances it had, and came back to tie the game once again on its second shot of the third period. Robby Fabbri found Mitchell cruising over the blue-line and he ripped a wrist shot over Smith for his 11th goal of the playoffs at 12:23. With the goal, Mitchell moved ahead of teammate Kerby Rychel, into first place in playoff points with 24.
Guelph ended the game on its first shot of the extra period, with Dickinson wristing a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle over Smith's glove for his sixth goal of the playoffs.
Smith made 27 saves.
Guelph finished the game 0-for-4 on the power play, while North Bay was 1-for-2 with the man advantage.
North Bay captain Barclay Goodrow said the Battalion are looking forward to stepping back on the ice in less than 24 hours for a chance at evening the series before heading home for Game 3 and 4 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"I think the advantage of playing back-to-back is you can get right back at it and you don't lose too much of the momentum you gained from the game before. Hopefully, we come out tomorrow and forget what happened tonight and keep on going."