The Grande Prairie Storm lost a hockey game on Sunday, but they may have gained a lot more than the point they picked up in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Whitecourt Wolverines.
Coming back with a late goal against the best team in the league and gaining a point could be the confidence-builder this fragile hockey team needs as they wrap up the first half of the Alberta Junior Hockey League on Tuesday in Lloydminster against the Bobcats.
Despite playing very well of late – three losses have been by one goal and two by two over the last five – they couldn't find a way to win . . . or in some cases found a way to lose.
The smallest crowd of the season (Grey Cup day) showed up Sunday at Revolution Place. Too bad for those that opted out for the pigskin- they missed one of the grittier Storm performances of the year.
Hines Creek native Dolan Bjornson scored with just 1:30 to go in the third to force the overtime scoring after a crease scramble in front of Whitecourt netminder Liam McCloskey.
The goal was reward for one of the Storm's best third periods at home in November. They outshot the Wolverines 7-4 in the final frame pushing the issue against the team with the most wins (21) and points (45) in the AJHL.
They also had some chances in the last 1:30, but any offensive momentum they gained heading into overtime was negated with a hooking penalty at 20:00 of the period.
They say the goalie has to be your best penalty killer and that is exactly what Storm netminder Xavier Burghardt was while helping his team weather the Whitecourt powerplay to open the OT.
A turnover at the Whitecourt blueline ended up being the mistake that cost them the game. Whitecourt forward Mitch Lipon was the beneficiary heading unimpeded in the other direction to score the unassisted winner finishing it off with a deke on Burghardt.
The Storm had taken a 1-0 lead at 4:26 of the second when Sam Macbean scored his first of the season.
And then Rob Johnson did his thing.
He scored at 5:46 to tie it and then gave the Wolverines the 2-1 lead with his second at 18:30 setting up Bjornson's late-period heroics with netminder Burghardt on the bench for the extra attacker.
Burghardt ended up making 30 saves while McCloskey looked at 23 shots.
Besides being a potential confidence-booster, the point also helped the Storm move into sole possession of sixth place in the North a point ahead of the Drayton Valley Thunder, who have two games in hand. It also moved them five up on the eighth-place Bobcats who remain in the mix for sixth/seventh/eighth with the Storm and Thunder.
After the tilt with the Bobcats the Storm head to Sherwood Park for a game with the Crusaders on Wednesday before returning home for games Saturday (Calgary Mustangs) and Sunday (Thunder).