This summer, Ryan MacDonald took a long, hard look at his hockey options and actually considered calling it quits.
The former London Knight goalie had just watched his old team win the Memorial Cup on home ice with Adam Dennis in net and was looking at spending his final OHL season battling it out for playing time with fellow Guelph goalie Danny Taylor.
But when Taylor was dealt to Kingston before the season, MacDonald returned to the Guelph fold and last night led the Western Conference-leading Storm to a 3-2 shootout win over his old club before 9,090 at the John Labatt Centre.
In the shootout, MacDonald stopped London's Sergei Kostitsyn and Rob Schremp while Dennis, for whom he was traded to Guelph last year, allowed goals to Matt D'Agostini and Ryan Callahan.
"I thought a lot about what I wanted to do this summer," said MacDonald, a 20-year-old Chesley native. "But I love to play hockey. When the chance to be the starter came up, who isn't going to take that opportunity?"
Guelph head coach Dave Barr said MacDonald reminds him of Detroit Red Wings goalie Manny Legace, a solid goalie who took a lot of time to earn respect from his own organization.
"I heard the rumour floating around (that Ryan was thinking about quitting) and I got on the phone to him right away," Barr said. "He's a big part of our team. He's going to start getting NHL interest. He's a very good goalie."
MacDonald, who lost a shootout game on the opening night of the season in Windsor, handed London its second straight shootout loss. MacDonald and Dennis share identical 13-3 records.
"I did have an advantage because I know their guys so well," MacDonald said. "(Dennis) and I have a lot of old friends in the other room. It's our old teams and you always want to get out there and stick it to them a little bit."
Every time Dennis and MacDonald stand at opposite ends of the same rink, memorable games are on the menu. Last year during London's famous unbeaten streak, the two battled to an epic 0-0 tie with MacDonald in the Knights net and Dennis in the Guelph cage.
"They want to prove to everyone who's better and they're both competitors," London head coach Dale Hunter said. "When you lose in a shootout, you feel different because it's a one-on-one thing. If you lose in overtime, then you've made a mistake and you can look at what led to that. In a shootout, no one made a mistake so it's a wash. But I don't mind it -- it's good for the fans."
London forward Rob Schremp said his team isn't worried about its two-game slide in shootout games. "We're going to be OK. We're not going to lose every shootout we're in. We practise it a lot and we're going to get some. They (Guelph) are disciplined, they don't take many penalties and when they take away the neutral zone, it kind of kills all the offence. Plus, you have Macker and Dennis, two of the best goalies in the league. . . . You know it's not going to be a high-scoring game."
Guelph outshot London 20-4 in the second period and scored twice. The only reason the Knights didn't trail after 40 minutes was David Bolland's 25th goal of the season -- a gorgeous top-shelf job over MacDonald's glove.
"Guelph's at the top of our league for a reason," Dale Hunter said. "Give them credit. They're right there and they have a chance (this year). That's a good hockey team."
Bolland also popped the game's first goal with 16-year-old London native Leigh Salters in the penalty box for charging.
Rookie defenceman Drew Doughty, the 15-year-old Londoner who was Guelph's first-round pick in this year's draft, played solid hockey in his first OHL game in his hometown. He's considered a lock for Ontario at the Under-17 World Hockey Challenge slated for Dec. 29-Jan. 4 in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Sarnia native Brandon Biggers served the second of a five-game suspension for cross-checking Kitchener's Boris Valabik in a game against the Rangers on Sunday.
Storm 3, Knights 2 (SO)
Guelph wins shootout 2-0
London goals: David Bolland (2)
Guelph goals: Rafael Rotter, Josh Godfrey
Next: London faces the Owen Sound Attack tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre, then heads to Erie for a game against the Otters tomorrow night.