Storm Drop Opener To Saints

Sports can be cruel sometimes.

On Wednesday night the Grande Prairie Storm were on top of the world after a big 6-1 win over the Sherwood Park Crusaders in Game 5 of a best-of-five Alberta Junior Hockey League North Division quarterfinal before one of the largest crowds of the season.

It was a noisy building and, no doubt, a very boisterous post-game between players after the game. There was something to celebrate as the Storm, for the first time since 2010, won a playoff series.  

How things can change in 48 hours.

A 8-0 loss to the Spruce Grove Saints in Spruce in Spruce Grove in the first game of a North Division best-of-seven semi-final turned that glee into glum . . . at least for now.

It was just one game and whether it was by a goal in overtime or eight-goal difference it only counts for one win for the Saints. Game 2 goes Saturday in Spruce Grove before the series moves to GP for Games 3 and 4 Monday and Tuesday.

Friday’s outcome may have been easy enough to predict.

A five-game series is played over eight days is gruelling and the Storm had just one day off before heading down the highway to take on a well-rested Saints team, ranked No. 8 in Canada, that had 13 days off to heal and prepare.

If they are looking for an excuse that could be one, but what head coach Matt Keillor is no doubt looking for is a short memory and a rebound in Game 2 before heading home to a building where the team has had great success this year.

The Saints were relentless Friday taking a 4-0 lead in the first period and outshooting the Storm 21-2 in the opening 20.

It was a little bit of the same in the second. This time three goals and a 16-4 shot clock difference.

The North Division champions, who finished 38 points ahead of the fourth place Storm, put a bow on it with two goals in the third and 13 more shots to make the final total 50-11.

Austin Parmiter, and Jordan Biro let the way for the Saints with two goals each while T.J. Lloyd, Damon Zimmer, Chris Van Os-Shaw and Josh Harris had singles. Nolan Kent got the shutout.

Rookie Ethan Slobodzian got his sixth straight playoff start playing 36:38 and allowing six goals. Veteran Charles-Olivier Levesque, who had been nursing an injury since a game Feb. 19 in Whitecourt, played the rest of the game allowing two goals on 16 shots.

The Saints connect on two of six powerplays while the Storm had two man-advantage chances.

Game time Saturday is 7 p.m.