It was a night of firsts, and a sixth, for the Grande Prairie Storm.
First the firsts.
The Storm 3-0 win over the Lloydminster Bobcats at Revolution Arena Saturday was the first win for newly-named Storm head coach/general manager Matt Keillor.
The game winner was scored by newly acquired forward Parker Smyth – his first as a member of the Storm.
The shutout went to second year player Arik Weersink – his first career Junior A shutout.
It all added up to six. The win vaulted the Storm over the Drayton Valley Thunder into sixth place in the North Division of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
Fittingly, the Storm did most of their damage in the first period.
After Smyth opened the scoring just 2:18 into the first Dolan Bjornson, with his sixth of the season, made it 2-0 connecting on the powerplay.
The Bobcats, down 2-0 after 20, must have felt they had the Storm just where they wanted them considering the Storm recent history of struggling to hold a two-goal lead.
On this night, however, they were perfect in preserving, and adding to, the lead finishing things off at 8:22 of the second on a goal by Evan Rochowiak. Rochowiak, who was acquired in late-November from the Drumheller Dragons how has points in seven of the nine games he has played with the Storm since the trade north.
En route to racking up his first goalless game as a Junior A hockey player, Weersink faced 24 shots including 13 in the third when the Bobcats outshot the Storm 13-4. Jeremy Kelleway in the Lloyd cage had to face 28 shots.
“Weersink was the backbone tonight and the boys were excited to see him get his first AJHL shutout,” said Keillor.
The Storm penalty killing, one of the brighter spots for the team this year, had a busy night having to stave off nine Bobcat man advantages.
Keillor was happy with the defence.
“I felt our back end managed the game very well for 60 minutes,” Keillor said of this blueliners.
The win moved the Storm three up on the eighth place Bobcats, who have six games in hand. The Storm have 21 points, the Thunder 20 and the 'Cats 18.
Keillor, who coached several of the current Storm players as midgets last year, was happy in the effort of the locals including the Cote brothers – Cruz and Walker.
“We wanted to give an opportunity for some of the kids that have developed here and they really stepped up tonight,” said Keillor. “The Cruz brothers provided a tonne of energy every time they were on the ice.”
The game was the last home game before Christmas for the Storm, who head out for games in Spruce Grove Friday against the Saints and then Whitecourt against the Wolverines Saturday and Sunday. They return home for a game against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Friday, Dec. 30.