Whether it was in St. Albert or Spruce Grove visiting the Saints has rarely been a pleasant experience for the Grande Prairie Storm.
This is the 21st season the two clubs have faced each other and over that span not much has changed – winning in the home of the Saints is a difficult task.
Friday night the Storm gave it their best shot, but like so many times over two decades the result was not in favor of the visitors.
This time the Saints skated off with a 5-3 win to move to within three points of the league leading Whitecourt Wolverines in the AJHL North Division.
On this night the team's downfall was a span of just over nine minutes in the third period when the Saints turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.
Spruce Grove had opened the game's scoring just 51 seconds in when Josh Harris scored. Grande Prairie got that one back at 11:32 on a goal by Dallas Comeau.
“Take away the first miunute of the game and we played a solid road game,” said Storm head coach/general manager Kevin Higo. “We warned the team that the Saints like to start quick and then we got scored on the first shift. We dan't start that way on the road.”
When Michael Clarke scored an unassisted shorthanded goal just 55 seconds into the second period to give the Storm a 2-1 lead it could have been the catalyst that spurred the Storm onto greater things.
Unfortunately it was the Saints who responded with the three-goal outburst.
It started with Ryan McKinnon's tying goal at 7:39; continued at 12:35 when Logan Ganie made it 3-2; and then ended with the game winner off the stick of Josh Harris at 16:43.
Game, set and match!
The teams traded goals in the third – Angus Scott for the Saints at 13:41 and then Clarke's second of the game at 16:43 – rounded out the scoring.
There were nine powerplays with the Saints getting five and neither team a goal with the man advantage.
“Special teams had another mjor impact on the game,” said Higo. “Our penalty kill was solid and killed off some key miunutes on the second period which kept us in the game, but we have to realize that time we are on the PK is time we could be using to get back in the game.”
Arik Weersink was in net for the Storm facing 36 shots while Nolan Kent at the other end looked at 27. The Storm held a 13-9 edge in the third.
“We made a serious push late in the third period, but we ran out of time,” said Higo. “Take away the early goal and if we add a couple more minutes onto the clock we might tie the game up and head into overtime.”
The Storm loss did not affect their standing. They still sit sixth with 16 points – four back of the Sherwood Park Crusaders and six up of the seventh place Drayton Valley Thunder.
Saturday the Storm travel to another tough barn to win in when they visit the Camrose Kodiaks. They finish off a series of three on the road with a game in Whitecourt on Tuesday before returning for games Nov. 18 (Brooks Bandits) and Nov. 19 (Okotoks Oilers) at Revolution Place in Grande Prairie.