Shorthanded Storm Fall To Cru

The result was not unexpected.

The Grande Prairie Storm were playing their third game in less than three days on the road against an opponent well ahead of them in the standings.

The fact the team was also short four players and their head coach/general manager may, however, have been the biggest factor in a 7-2 loss to the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Sunday.

Three of those players – Cruz Cote, Walker Cote and Landon Vollman – will also miss the team's three-game excursion into southern Alberta the first weekend in February.

The Alberta Junior Hockey League came down hard on the Peace Country trio on Sunday.

The Cote brothers were suspended for five games and Vollman for six following a melee early in the third period in a game against the Bonnyville Pontiacs on Saturday.

The AJHL called it a “staged” fight and as a result also suspended head coach/GM Matt Keillor for three games for what it felt was his involvement in the event. No Bonnyville players were suspended, though two did receive double game misconducts and fighting majors for their part in the line brawl.

Vollman got the extra game because it was his fifth fighting major of the season.

Storm defenceman Jason Wenzel, following a five minute interference major in a game Friday against the Pontiacs, was suspended for two games. He served those on the weekend.

Keillor will return for the third game of the road trip in Okotoks on Feb. 5 while the Cote brothers will be out of the lineup until the second game of a two-game home stand against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons Feb. 10-11 and Vollman won't see any game action until the Storm play the Thunder in Drayton Valley on Feb. 16.

Keillor, who replaced Kevin Higo in early December, has been a positive influence on the team helping them to five wins in just over a month after the team had just seven during the first three months of the season.

With the chances of a playoff spot looking reasonably good – the Storm are in sixth place in the North Division four up on the Thunder and nine ahead of the Lloydminster Bobcats – what impact the Saturday shenanigans have may not be known until the post season if the team can hold sixth or seventh place until then. Events like that and the adversity that follows can sometimes create a bond that bodes well for a team in the post season.

On Sunday in Sherwood Park the shorthanded Storm trialed 3-0 after the first and 6-2 going into the third

Michael Clarke, the AJHL Player of the Week last week, added to his team leading points total with a goal. He now has 24 to go with his 25 assists in 48 games. Alec Grollman got the other Storm goal while Tyler Maltby had two and Jesse Zaharichuk, Brandon Wallis, Matt Dykstra, Tanner Younghans and Ty Readman one each for the Cru.

Arik Weersink was in net for the Storm facing 45 shots while the Storm shot 36 pucks at Zac Klassen at the other end.

Sherwood Park got six powerplay chances and scored twice with the advantage while the Storm were 0-2 with the PP.

The south road trip starts on Feb. 3 against the Eagles in Canmore before moving to Olds against the Grizzlys on Feb. 4 and then finishes up on Feb. 5 with a date against the Oilers in Okotoks.

The chances of the Storm moving out of sixth upwards are not good. The fifth place Cru are 23 points ahead and the Storm have just 12 games remaining, so the real battle is going to be for sixth and seventh (final playoff spot) between the Storm, Thunder and Bobcats.