MacKenzie Entwistle has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury, but the hope is he’ll be back in the Guelph Storm lineup sooner than later so he can keep developing chemistry with his new linemates in advance of the OHL playoffs.
Storm radio play-by-play guy Larry Merlott had Entwistle only missing one game, but the injury lingered enough to keep the winger out of a weekend swing through Ottawa and Kingston.
Entwistle is now expected to return for Guelph’s next game, a home date with the Sarnia Sting on Feb. 8.
“Not a lot of fun” to be missing part of top line
In Entwistle’s absence, Guelph beat the Saginaw Spirit by a score of 8-2 and rolled over the Kingston Frontenacs by a score of 8-1, and lost 4-3 in overtime to the Ottawa 67s. Nick Suzuki and Isaac Ratcliffe were joined by Domenico Commisso on Guelph’s top line, and the undrafted soon-to-be 21-year-old recorded three goals and an assist in those three games.
Make no mistake, though; Entwistle will be back in the starring roll upon his return.
“It’s not a lot fun to not be able to put your best line up on the ice but other players are getting some good opportunities to play with added minutes and on special teams,” Storm coach and general manager told Paul Osborne of the Guelph Mercury Tribune. “I’d like to see how good we can become in the 8-12 games before the playoffs.”
Burnett added six new players along with Entwistle prior to the trade deadline, and while the new-look team has been playing well, there’s still room for growth. With only 18 games remaining on the regular-season schedule, time’s running out in order to get on the same page in advance of a hoped-for championship push.
“We need the time,” Burnett said. “We have all these new guys and we haven’t even had a full team practice yet.”
Entwistle only one of Guelph’s injured
That’s because injuries gave befallen other key players, including OHL defenseman of the month Sean Durzi, NHL draft pick Alexey Tropchenko, and Russian forward Pavel Gogolev, who was acquired earlier in the season in the Ryan Merkley trade.
On the flip side, Montreal Canadiens prospect Cam Hillis, however, was recently able to return after missing several games with an injury of his own.
None of these injuries are of the season-ending variety. They’re all par for the course for a hockey club, really, and ultimately Burnett doesn’t seem to worried.
“I’m pretty comfortable with the group we have and I’ve seen enough good things from the leadership group that leads me to believe that we’ll be fine.”
As a reminder, Entwistle has been good for four goals and eight assists in 10 games with Guelph. That 1.2 point per game average is a significant improvement over the career-high 0.93 rate he was rocking with the Hamilton Bulldogs prior to the trade. During the playoffs last year, he scored 10 goals and added seven assists in 21 games, helping Hamilton win an OHL Championship.
In truth, Guelph’s success is anything but guaranteed. The Storm sit fourth in the Western Conference and would therefore face an uphill battle to advance to the final round, with the London Knights, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Saginaw Spirit currently all standing in their way.
Few teams can roll out a top line like Suzuki, Entwistle and Ratcliffe, and the more regular-season games they can get in together, the better off they’ll be when results matter most.
Friday, Feb. 8 vs. Sarnia Sting
Saturday, Feb. 9 @ Sarnia Sting
Sunday, Feb. 10 vs. Kingston Frontenacs