It's only December 4 so it might be a little early in the season to be talking about must-win games.
But, if Sunday's game against the Drayton Valley Thunder at Revolution Arena wasn't “must-win” it was the closest thing to it.
Without a victory since Oct. 29, home or away, and losers of seven straight at home including a 5-3 loss Saturday to the Calgary Mustangs – a team until then that hadn't won a game on the road all season – the Grande Prairie Storm needed something Sunday to convince themselves and the loyal fans that keep showing up in good numbers despite the struggles there is some hope for success this season.
Add in the fact the Thunder, heading into the game, were leading the Storm by a point for sixth place in the eight-team North Division and consider while the Storm were playing the Thunder the eighth place Lloydminster Bobcats, just three back of the Storm, were defeating the Drumheller Dragons it all added up to one thing – nothing but a win would suffice.
And win they did . . . and in exciting fashion!
Down 2-0 in the second and 3-2 early in the third the Storm scored three times in the third for a 5-3 win and a vault over the Thunder for sixth place with 19 points. The Thunder have 18.
The hero ended up being a guy who hadn't collected a point in 16 games. California native Alec Groolman's second goal of the season came shorthanded with just 5:47 remaining in the game.
Groolman also had an assist for a two-point night and second star status. His first multi-point game of the season giving him two goals and three assists in 25 games.
The Thunder opened the scoring on the powerplay at 13:24 of the first on a goal by Matt Benko and then went up 2-0 when Zach Cox scored at 4:25.
If the Storm were going to toss in the towel it could have been after Cox's goal.
Instead they gritted their teeth and roared back with a pair of their own – Evan Rochowiak just 23 seconds after Cox scored and then a one-timer from Dallas Comeau to tie it at 2-2 at 10:11.
There was no tent-folding in the third after Tyler Benko scored at 6:46 of the third to make it 3-2.
Instead the Storm bore down and battled and were rewarded.
Demetrius Kambeitz tied it at 3-3 tipping Carter Wolski's point shot at 7:25 setting up Groolman's heroics less than seven minutes later.
Hines Creek native Dolan Bjornson, with his second of the weekend, salted it away with 42 seconds to go into the empty net
Alex Weersink, who made some big saves late in the game to preserve the one-goal lead, faced 23 Thunder shots while Parker Tobin at the other end looked at 27.
The Storm head on the road Tuesday to face the league leading Whitecourt Wolverines before hosting an important pair of games Friday and Saturday against the Bobcats in games that have as much significance as the one Sunday against the Thunder.