Storm Cruz To Win

The Grande Prairie Storm put it in Cruz's control on Friday night!

And the 17-year-old Falher native drove his team to one of the most important wins of the season.

Cruz Cote scored three times, including the game winner and an empty-netter in the final couple of minutes, to lift the Storm to a 7-5 win over the Sherwood Park Crusaders in Revolution Arena.

Cote's timing was perfect.

Just before the Crusaders had tied the game at 5-5 the Storm had momentarily fallen into eighth place in the North Division of the Alberta Junior Hockey League as the result of the Lloydminster Bobcat's 4-3 win over the division leading For McMurray Oil Barons.

A goal off the stick of Cameron Regan of the Crusaders at 17:30 of the third tied it at fives and then Cote went to work lifting his team to the victory and back out of eighth place into a tie with the Drayton Valley Thunder for sixth.

Cote's second of the night came on the powerplay off a one-timer at 18:33 of the third and the clincher into the empty net with 49 seconds remaining.

Storm coach Matt Keillor was delighted his young forward stepped forward in such an important game.

“When you are playing for your playoff lives you really get to see what guys can give you that little extra – that something more you need in big moments,” said Keillor. “Tonight that was Cruz Cote.”

The Storm hadn't made it easy on themselves giving up a 5-2 third-period lead.

“Hockey is never supposed to be easy and that's exactly why guys like Cruz are extremely invaluable. We are happy, but we're not satisfied. We are already preparing for tomorrow.”

Tomorrow is Saturday and another date with the Crusaders.

And another chance to grab a tighter grip on the final playoff spot.

The Storm and Thunder, who lost 9-2 to the Whitecourt Wolverines on Friday, are tied with 34 points each while the Bobcats have 33.

While the Storm host the Cru Saturday the Thunder are in Camrose to play the Kodiaks and the Bobcats face the MOB for the second night in a row.

The Thunder have five games and the Storm and Bobcats three remaining.

Right now the Thunder and Bobcats, who have 15 wins each to the Storm's 14, hold the first tiebreaker if there is a tie in the standings.

Grande Prairie caught a bit of a break on Friday as the Crusaders, with fifth place clinched and no chance to move up or down in the standings, sat out several starters playing a handful of midget call-ups.

Cote, who now has seven goals and 10 assists, along with Michael Clarke scored for the Storm in the first period and Tanner Younghans for the Crusaders.

Clarke and Parker Smyth scored for the Storm and Ryan Rebelato for Sherwood Park as the Storm took a 4-2 lead into the third.

When Alec Grollman scored at 6:35 to make it 5-2 Storm it appeared the home team would cruise to the win. Brett Roberts made it 5-3 at 10:25 and then Ben Sowa scored at 12:07 to slim it to 5-4 before Regan's tying tally with 2:30 remaining.

And then the Cote heroics to finish it off.

Arik Weersink was more than solid in the Storm net while facing 34 shots while Jake Morrissey got the start and allowed four goals on 22 shots while Brandon Vogel faced 18 allowing two goals.

Friday's game was the first of three in a row at home against the Crusaders. After Saturday they return for a game next Friday. The Storm finish up the regular season against the Bonnyville Pontiacs on March 4 at home.