Namestnikov shines in Guelph Storm debut

Saturday afternoon the team honors Ryan Callahan in a pre-game ceremony before they meet the Kitchener Rangers

Now THAT’S how you make a good first impression.

Guelph Storm newcomer Max Namestnikov had two goals and two assists to lead the locals to a 6-4 victory over the Niagara IceDogs Friday night before 4,333 at the Sleeman Centre.

Acquired a day earlier from the Sarnia Sting for Sasha Pastujov, Namestnikov teamed up with Danny Zhilkin and Matt Poitras, their line totaled 11 points on the night, as Zhilkin had two goals and an assist and Poitras had four assists.

Pastujov had a goal and an assist in his Sarnia debut, a win over Windsor.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak and moved Guelph out of the OHL basement, two points up on Niagara in the overall standings.

“Not too bad,” the third overall pick in the 2020 OHL draft said with a smile when complimented on his debut.

There is plenty of hockey bloodlines in the Michigan native’s family. brother Vladislav, a one-time London Knight, has had a solid NHL career, his dad and one uncle played a bit in the NHL while another uncle is former NHL star Slava Kozlov.

Was he surprised by the trade or see it coming?

“Ah, a little bit of both,” he said. “It didn’t hit me at the time, but you kind of know,” he said. “It’s a new start for me. New guys, new team, new rink, new city. It’s good.”

Zhilkin said Namestnikov’s style compliments that of he and Poitras.

“He plays bigger than his size and he’s a smart guy to play with,” said Zhilkin. “We both play a fast-paced game and he has a high IQ. He’s going to be a great player to play with.”

It didn’t start that well Friday.

Niagara put two early ones past rookie Storm goaltender Brayden Gillespie and it was eight and a half minutes into the game before Guelph got its first shot on net.

But it was a different team after that, outshooting Niagara 19-9 in the first period and 44-28 on the night. Guelph also owned the faceoff circle, with a 44-28 advantage.

Gavin Grundner’s first OHL goal made it a 2-1 game after 20 minutes.

The teams exchanged goals in the second period, with Namestnikov scoring on the power play, to make it 3-2 after 40 minutes.

The third was all Guelph. Charlie Paquette tied it early, then a pair by Zhilkin put the game away. Namestnikov’s second was into an empty net.

Niagara scored with three seconds on the clock to round out the scoring.

“We struggled there in the first, but we found our way,” said Zhilkin

The Storm was without Braeden Bowman, Niko Minkkinen, Cedricson Okitundu and Ryan McGuire with injuries. Michael Buchinger returned after missing the past six games.

Guelph hosts the Kitchener Rangers Saturday at 4 pm Former Storm great and longtime NHLer Ryan Callahan will be honored before the game and his jersey lifted to the rafters where it will join those of Jeff O’Neill, Todd Bertuzzi and Paul Fendley.

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