The battle for sixth, seventh and eighth in the North Division of the Alberta Junior Hockey League has turned into a very intriguing scenario as the Grande Prairie Storm, Drayton Valley Thunder and Lloydminster Bobcats head into the home stretch of the regular season.
The Storm, who had a comfortable lead on the other two not that long ago, were bumped to seventh place following a 5-1 loss to the Thunder in Drayton Valley on Thursday and now head into Lloydminster for games Friday and Saturday. The Bobcats are just a point back of the Storm.
If nothing else, the two teams out of the three who will make the playoffs will be somewhat battle ready when the post season begins after having to grind it out to make it there.
Thursday night in Drayton Valley the Storm lost their first game, of six, to the Thunder.
After a scoreless first period the Thunder racked up four goals in the second en route to their 14th win of the season and now have a two-point lead on the Storm with two games in hand heading into the final weeks of the regular campaign.
Tyler Benko had a pair of goals and Rhett Wilcox, Nolan Krewusik and Chris Breese singles for the Thunder. Parker Smyth scored or the Storm, his eighth of the season.
Arik Weersink started in net for the Storm facing 27 shots while allowing three goals before Xavier Burghardt stepped in looking at 12 shots while allowing two goals. Joseph McLeod went the distance for the Thunder stopping 39 of 40 Storm shots.
After the trip to Lloydminster the Storm return home for games Feb. 24-25 against the Sherwood Park Crusaders.