Storm bounce back against Barons
By Logan Clow, Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune
Sunday, September 14
The Grande Prairie Storm have finally solved the Fort McMurray Oil Barons – one of the top junior A hockey teams in the country.
On Friday the Storm were blanked 4-0 by the MOB at Revolution Arena, thanks to a hat-trick from Oil Barons forward and captain Jetlan Houcher, along with a 38-save performance from goaltender Zach Fortin. Storm goaltender Andy Gilker turned aside 23 shots.
Ahead of Saturday night’s game the Oil Barons had a 28-1-2 record against the Storm in their last 31 meetings.
Storm forward Jade McMullen helped adjust that stat, scoring his second-career hat-trick in Saturday’s rematch. Nigel Swab, Parker Wakaruk and Austin Parmiter also found the twine, en route to a 6-3 Storm win – the first loss of the season for MOB. Storm goaltender Liam McLeod made 25 saves for his first win of the season.
“This is my third year here and we’ve struggled with Fort McMurray. It was really nice for them to come in here and us lay a licking on them,” said McMullen, who scored his first-career hat-trick on Feb. 19 of last season against the Sherwood Park Crusaders.
“It wasn’t a whole lot different (than Friday night). In the first game, I thought we battled hard and their goalie (Fortin) was hot and we left Houcher by himself. I feel like tonight, our chances we got around the net were going in for us and hopefully that keeps going in for us.”
With the weekend split, the Storm move to 2-2 on the season.
The Storm had a similar outing on their Sept. 5-6 opening weekend. The Storm were blanked 3-0 by the Bonnyville Pontiacs Friday and then responded with a 6-4 win Saturday.
“I think we might change all of our games now to Saturday and Sundays and eliminate Fridays,” said Kevin Higo, head coach and general manager of the Storm, after Saturday’s win.
“I thought the guys were good (this weekend). Again, the guys responded well on Saturday. I thought we played well yesterday, but we just couldn’t score. They had a good goalie, but we had good scoring chances. The guys were really good today. The guys came to the rink today and they were real positive. Before the game, Todd (Laurin, assistant coach) and I were talking and he said ‘there’s a good vibe within the group’. What we’re trying to do is make sure we’re on an even keel and that we’re not too high or not too low.”
Like the Pontiacs, who scored all four of their goals on the powerplay last Saturday in the Storm’s 6-4 win, the Oil Barons scored all three of their goals Saturday on the man advantage.
Higo says team consistency isn’t an issue yet.
“I think if we didn’t get enough pucks to the net and didn’t get enough scoring opportunities, I’d say that. Game number one, we just didn’t have enough jump and didn’t have enough energy (3-0 loss to Pontiacs). I thought our first period was our best period yesterday (Friday), but we just couldn’t score,” he said.
Despite having goaltender Adam Beukeboom back from the Prince George Cougars WHL camp, the Storm split the weekend games between Andy Gilker and Liam McLeod.
Higo says Beukeboom did not dress because the team does not have his release yet from the Cougars.
“He’s been here since Tuesday (Sept. 9) and practiced all week. We fully anticipated him being here and being able to play. It’s just one of those things that hopefully we can get it done sooner, rather than later,” said Higo.
Storm add Doiron
Higo continues to tinker with the Storm line-up.
Prior to Saturday’s game against the Oil Barons, the team had announced the acquisition of Brett Doiron, from the Summerside Capitals, from the Maritime Junior A Hockey League, in exchange for future considerations.
“I coached him in prep school out in New Brunswick (Rothesay Netherwood School). It’s the same school Chase Bell came from and Mitch Vanderlaan, who is on Fort McMurray. Brett skates very well. He’s an aggressive kid. He’s not very big, but he plays very physical,” said Higo.
Higo says Dorion is a versatile player, who can play forward and defence, though it’s unclear which position he’ll play.
Dorion was a first-round pick in the Maritime Hockey League by the Pictou County Weeks Crushers, as well as a QMJHL draft pick by the Charlottetown Islanders.
“He plays with an edge and he’s got good puck skills,” added Higo.
Higo says Dorion will be in the line-up on Sept. 19-20, when the Storm travel to play the Lloydminster Bobcats and Bonnyville Pontiacs.
He says the team is still carrying too many players and expects to make another trade or two this week.
“We’re always listening (to offers) if there’s an opportunity to improve the team,” he said.
The Storm’s next home game is Sept. 30 against the Drayton Valley Thunder.