No one said making the playoffs for the first time since 2012-13 was going to be easy.
And it isn't getting an easier for the Grande Prairie Storm.
The Storm, not that long ago looking good in sixth place in the North Division of the Alberta Junior Hockey League looking down on the Drayton Valley Thunder and Lloydminster Bobcats, now find themselves looking up at the two teams and out of a playoff spot . . . for now.
The Storm fell 6-0 to the 2016 Royal Bank Cup silver medallist Bobcats in the border city on Friday night and now sit eighth – a point behind the 'Cats.
The two teams battle again Saturday in Lloydminster.
While a loss Saturday mathematically doesn't eliminate the Storm from the playoffs, falling behind by three points in the battle for the final playoff spot makes things significantly more difficult.
Especially considering the Storm finish up their regular season with three games against the Sherwood Park Crusaders and one against the Bonnyville Pontiacs. They are 0-8 against those two clubs this year.
Lloydminster, after Saturday, will have five games remaining including two against the top two teams in the league – Fort McMurray Oil Barons and Whitecourt Wolverines – and one against the third place Spruce Grove Saints.
In a nutshell, the team that wins Saturday would be considered a good bet to grab a playoff spot.
The Drayton Valley Thunder are in the mix for sixth to eighth too, a point up on the Bobcats.
Drayton Valley have a tough schedule ahead also with two games against the Crusaders and singles against the Camrose Kodiaks, Wolverines, Pontiacs and Oil Barons. They only game remaining they might be expected to win would be against the Calgary Mustangs – the team with the worst record in the league.
On Friday the Storm fell behind 2-0 in the first period and allowed the remaining four in the second.
Kobe Walker had a big game for the Bobcats with three goals and an assist while Zach Kaiser had two and Chasetan Braid a single. Austin McGrath got the shutout making 30 saves.
That's the same number of shots the Storm duo of Xavier Burghardt and Arik Weersink faced with Burghardt taking the loss allowing four goals on 18 shots.
After Saturday's game the Storm return home to finish the regular season – starting with a pair against the Crusaders next Friday and Saturday and, hopefully, not having to pull off any upsets to secure a playoff spot.