By LOGAN CLOW
The Kevin Higo-era with the Grande Prairie Storm is over.
Last Thursday, the Storm fired Higo, who was in his third and final year of his contract as head coach and GM of the Storm.
Under Higo's two-and-a-half-year tutelage, the Storm had only 33 wins in 154 AJHL games.
For the remainder of the team's season Matt Keillor, who was an assistant coach with the Storm last season and had worked as head coach of the Ernie's Sports Experts Midget AAA Storm for the past season-and-a-half, will take over.
“Obviously change is a difficult thing, but with change also comes opportunity, so I'm unbelievably excited for the opportunity,” said Keillor.
“…Obviously it was a goal of mine to one day coach the junior A Storm, and my family has just grown to love the city and the community and we're looking forward to the opportunity and we're hoping to stay for many more years to come.”.
Keillor was hired in 2014 to coach GPAC's Bantam AAA Storm, as well as work as technical director for GP Minor Hockey.
Keillor has coached AAA-level hockey for several years and has coached and work thoroughly with the Hockey Alberta provincial stream.
Last year, he was promoted to head coach of the Midget AAA Storm. But now with his departure from the GPAC squad, assistant coach Blake Cosgrove will assume the head coaching duties.
Keillor said he understands he's being thrown into a difficult situation with the Storm.
Not only is it the team's fourth head coach/GM since 2013, but there's very high expectations to make playoffs this season for the first time since 2012-2013.
The playoff mindset, doesn't change, said Keillor.
“I don't want to say we just want to the old Grande Prairie, blue-collared team. We want to have skill and we want to compete every single night and we want to push the pace. We want to have creativity. We want to have grit. We want to have everything that you need to obviously help win hockey games…,” he said,
“We want to make the playoffs and we want to have some success, and we want to move our kids on to college and school programs.”
In addition to trying to guide the team to a post-season berth, what also makes Keillor's role challenging is evaluating the team in a short span.
The team only plays a handful of games until the Jan. 10 CJHL trade deadline, and if the team wants to make a serious run for the playoffs, some pieces may need to be moved.
“I'm going to be really busy here for the next week just getting to know the players and where we're at. It's an opportunity for us to evaluate and give those guys another opportunity to show themselves who wants to be here and who wants to be a Grande Prairie Storm,” he said.
What is uncertain at this point is Keillor's future as the team's head coach and GM past the 2016-2017 season.
His work and the position will be re-evaluated after the season concludes.
“Right now, it's get us through the season and then we'll review things after the last game of the season takes place,” noted Toews.