On February 18th the Grande Prairie Storm play the final game of their six-game regular season series against the Lloydminster Bobcats in the border city.
The way things are stacking up in the battle for sixth, seventh and eighth place in the North Division of the Alberta Junior Hockey League that game could decide which team grabs the final playoff spot.
The Bobcats have made things very interesting after downing the Storm 3-2 in Revolution Place Friday. The win moves Lloyd to within a point of the seventh place Storm.
The game marked the Junior A debut of new Storm coach/general manager Mark Keillor, who took over from Kevin Higo this week. Higo had been behind the Storm bench since the start of the 2014-2015 season.
Keillor saw his troops get off to a bit of a shaky start falling behind 3-1 after one period.
They rebounded outshooting the 'Cats 10-3 in the second holding a territorial edge as well as shots count, but couldn't find the twine.
“I thought the energy was good, especially in the second period,” said Keillor. “We took advantage of some neutral zone turnovers.”
Zac McNeil, who had opened the game's scoring at 5:54 of the first, got his second of the night at 5:01 of the third and, despite some outstanding opportunities, the Storm couldn't get the equalizer.
Keillor liked the push-back from his club after falling behind by a pair in the first.
“I was happy with the adjustments we made and hope we can capitalize on our opportunities tomorrow,” said Keillor, who has to prepare his team for a re-match at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
After McNeill, who is second on the team in scoring with 10 goals and 12 assists, had opened the scoring the Bobcats got two in just over a minute – one off the stick of Wilson Northey at 7:35 and another from Brady Barclay at 8:47 – to take a 2-1 lead. The game winner was scored on the powerplay by Chasetan Braid with just 34 seconds to go in the first.
Xavier Burghardt had started the game for the Storm and lasted one period facing 10 shots. Arik Weersink took over to start the second and stopped all 13 shots fired his way earning Home Star honors. Austin McGrath was at the other and looked at 29 Storm shots.
Friday's loss combined with a 6-3 Drayton Valley Thunder win over the Calgary Mustangs allowed the Thunder to jump a point ahead of the Storm into sixth place in the North.
The Thunder have two games and the Bobcats five in hand over the Storm.