“He can be a huge factor for us. When he's skating strong and driving to the net he's one of the most effective players in the league”. Those are the words Grande Prairie Storm coach Blaine Bablitz used after Friday's 4-1 win over the Lloydminster Bobcats to describe the play of forward Gus Correale.
Correale was easily the most dominant offensive force on the night, as he scored the first two goals for the Storm and also assisted on a third period marker by Tanner Labbe. Correale's pair came before stragglers in the crowd of 1952 at the Canada Games Arena had even found their seats, as he had the Storm up 2-0 by the time the contest was just over five minutes old.
If not for several missed scoring opportunities afterwards, the home side likely could have put Lloydminster away far earlier in this one. Instead, though, the Bobcats hung around and actually trailed by only one heading into the third period, as they scored late in the middle frame, towards the very end of a five-minute powerplay.
Labbe's goal early in the third, however, ended any thoughts the last place Bobcats had of upsetting Grande Prairie for a third time this year. Instead, when Marc-Etienne Drapeau tallied again with under two minutes to play, it sealed the Storm's fourth win in the six meetings between the clubs, who don't meet again this regular season.
The victory pulls the Storm back into a tie with Bonnyville for second place in the AJHL North standings. Spruce Grove remains seven points in front of both of them, as the Saints shut out Sherwood Park 1-0 Friday.
Storm now finish off their pre-Christmas schedule with a gruelling four games in five nights against South Division opponents, beginning this Tuesday night in Calgary against the Canucks. Coach Bablitz was glad to see his club put forth a strong effort in their final home game before the road trip.
“It was important for us to get our confidence back, after losing a couple. We had a solid 60-minute effort tonight and look forward to carrying that momentum onto the road.”
Storm don't see action again at the Canada Games Arena until the New Year. Their next home games are back-to-back on January 4th and 5th against the division leading Saints. In the meantime, the Storm wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and look forward to once again providing you with entertaining hockey in 2013.
– Story by Don Whiteford of www.PeaceCountrySports.com