Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Guelph Storm fill pre-final layoff with bowling and baseball

LONDON, Ont. — Too much downtime can be a drawback.

The bye earner at the Memorial Cup, at minimum, has at least three days off before playing the last game of a 90-some-game season that began in August. There's no way to know for sure if it can affect how a team plays in the final, but inside the bubble of a big event, there potential for too much idle time to throw a team off. For the Guelph Storm, at least it's only three days and they're only one hour from their home base.

"I think we have to almost take our mind off it for a day or two, just relax and have fun," goalie Justin Nichols said on Friday morning. "We'll really dial it in [Saturday] and focus on what we need to do. We have to make sure we're not too serious and burn ourselves out before Sunday.

"Our families are around and we're familiar with London," the St. Catharines, Ont., native added. "Me and Finner [captain Matt Finn], we went downtown for sushi the other night. It's not as bad as if we were out in Saskatoon or something like that."

Nichols meant no offence to last season's host. The point went more to the fact the Storm are at least in familiar environment, playing close to home in southwestern Ontario. The last few teams that had the break — the Halifax Mooseheads last May in Saskatoon, London in Shawinigan, Que., in 2012 and the Saint John Sea Dogs in Mississauga the spring prior — were all far from home.

The team bowled on Thursday and visited the London police department. Friday will be all about filling the hours. The Storm have scarcely little time left together as Sunday's 4:30 p.m. ET faceoff nears.

"Today we're going to the batting cage and hit some baseballs then we have a visit to the Parkdale children's hospital," Finn said. "We'll watch some movies tomorrow. We got to get away from the game, get away from the rink. Just be kids and focus."

Other teams have been known to treat the tournament as a business trip and get too tightly wound. Others have worked in the standard touristy activities. During the last two Ontario tournaments in 2008 and '11, the eventual winners, Spokane and Saint John, each went to Toronto Blue Jays games.

Two years ago, London had group outings to Montreal and Quebec City during its break. The Knights started to a betray a little ennui during their four days off before the final, which they lost 2-1 in overtime to Shawinigan.

"We've got a great group of guys who are pretty imaginative," said right wing Scott Kosmachuk, who had a hat trick in the see-ya-later-London 7-2 Storm win on Wednesday. "Our coaches are pretty good at keeping us busy. We're doing a lot of stuff to keep us active."

"We're pretty used to having breaks with the way our OHL schedule works," the Winnipeg Jets signing added. "We do a lot of playing Thursday to Sunday with the first part of the week to prepare."

Meantime, there's about 48 hours for Londoners to go through the Levels of Losing and pick a provisional team for the final, presuming they keep their tickets. Side with the Storm or adopt who emerges from the Edmonton-Val-d'Or semifinal?

"We're hoping the crowd's behind us because they're OHL fans," Kosmachuk said. "They might be against us after knocking their boys out."

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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