Crusaders Win Thriller In Shootout

They had to wait until Wednesday night to find out if they were in the playoffs or not, and now they're going to have to wait until tomorrow night to find out if they are a sixth or seventh place seed in the Alberta Junior Hockey League North Division playoffs.

A 4-3 shootout loss to the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Friday in Revolution Arena gave the Grande Prairie Storm a point and sole possession of sixth place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League North – for now.

They sit a point up on the seventh place Drayton Valley Thunder (5-0 losers to the Bonnyville Pontiacs on Friday) and each team has a game remaining.

The Storm host the Pontiacs on Saturday (7:30 p.m.) while the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, looking to clinch first overall in the North, are in Drayton Valley.

If the Storm and Thunder end up tied in points the Storm would get the nod for first because they would have more regular time wins over the course of the regular season. 

The MOB, three up on the second place Whitecourt Wolverines, have two games remaining – as do the Wolverines. The Spruce Grove Saints are locked into third place six back of the Wolverines.

First overall gets a first-round bye while second takes on seventh; third places sixth and the fourth place Pontiacs will be meeting the fifth place Crusaders.

The Storm may be silently hoping the Oil Barons finish first. They lost all six to the MOB this year scoring just four goals in those six games. The lost five of six to the Wolverines and Saints scoring 13 goals against the Wolverines and 11 against the Saints.

Friday night it was a see-saw battle in Revolution.

The Storm were ahead 1-0 and 2-1 and fought back from a 3-2 deficit in the third to force the overtime and shootout.

Down 2-1 going into the third the Crusaders got goals from Tanner Younghans (3:53) and Brandan Stafford (9:41) en route to a 3-2 lead to set up Parker Smyth's late game heroics.

Smyth, who had one of his better games in a Storm uniform,  jabbed home the game-tying goal with just 1:28 remaining in the third to set up the exciting extra period and shootout.

“It felt like a playoff game the whole way – the momentum shift band and forth,” said Storm head coach/general manager Matt Keillor. “You could feel the energy in the building in the third from the fans and you just had the feeling we were going to tie it up.”

Michael Clarke, who leads the team with 31 goals and 61 points, scored in the first for the Storm and Carter Wolski in the second. Tyler Maltby scored the other SP tally.

Arik Weersink was in net for the Storm facing 28 shots while the Storm fired 34 and Brandon Vogel.

After Stafford had given the Crusaders the lead in the third he and his on-ice teammates all raised their sticks into the air in what looked like a mocking of the Storm – who post-game twice last weekend raised their sticks to the crowd after wins over the Crusaders.

It is unlikely the two clubs will meet down the line in the playoffs, but if they do there will definitely be some animosity there.

“We will take the point and get ready for tomorrow,” said Keillor.

While the Storm don't know who they will be playing in the first round, and what date the first game will be, they did announce the team's first home game in the first round will be on Sunday, March 12. Tickets for the playoffs are available at the Revolution Place Box Office.