Life on the road hasn’t worked in the Grande Prairie Storm’s favour so far this season.
With a 2-4 road record, the Storm will look to change that this weekend with a three-game road trip against the Okotoks Oilers on Friday, Brooks Bandits on Saturday and will then visit Curtis Skip and the Drumheller Dragons on Sunday.
The Storm sport a 5-10 record and are ranked seventh in the AJHL North Division – three points back of the Drayton Valley Thunder. The Storm lost their last game 8-6 to the Old Grizzlys on Oct. 11 at Revolution Arena.
“We are doing a lot of positive things. Our work habits and our attention to detail is getting a lot better,” said Kevin Higo, head coach and general manager, of where the team is at headed into the weekend.
“We want to focus on the first and last five minutes of every period. It seems like we’re giving up goals at the wrong time and some of that is just positional and maybe cheating a little bit in the offensive zone and giving up scoring opportunities that we don’t need to give up. And, some of it is mental too. We’re just not being mentally sharp at the right time and we need to work on that.”
Friday will be the second meeting of the season between the Storm and Oilers. The teams met on Sept. 27 at the AJHL Showcase, where the Oilers came away with a 4-1 victory. Since, the Storm have gone 2-5, while the Oilers have won six of their last seven.
The Oilers are 9-5-2 and ranked second in the AJHL South Division.
“They’re built for this year. They’re expecting to win this year and it’ll be a situation where we will have to be ready to go,” said Higo.
“They have a lot of returning guys, but we showed at the showcase that we can compete with them and we want to go into their rink and be as aggressive as we can and take advantage of that.”
With three games in three nights, Higo said he isn’t concerned that the team’s travels will impact their performance.
“I don’t think the distance will be a factor for us. It’s just a matter of dealing it one game at a time. Once the game it’s over with, whether you win or lose, you move on and get ready for the next one,” said Higo.
Look to rob Bandits
The Brooks Bandits are riding a five-game win streak into their home game on Friday against the Spruce Grove Saints.
Saturday will mark the first meeting of the season between the Storm and Bandits.
Higo said the squad will have be aware of Bandits forward Austin Plevy, who leads the league with eight goals and 15 assists.
“We want (our guys) to be aware of who (they’re) playing against. We don’t get the match-ups that we want on the road because (the home team) gets the last change. It’s has to be a team effort,” said Higo.
The Bandits are ranked fifth in the AJHL’s South Division with an 8-5 record.
The Storm will face an old teammate in goaltender Curtis Skip on Sunday.
In addition to the Dragons’ 7-3-3 record, the 20-year Skip – a Swan City native – is 5-3-1 and holds a 2.56 GAA.
On Thursday, Higo announced the team had traded for Marc Eremenko. from the Weyburn Red Wings, of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, in exchange for future considerations on Oct. 14.
The 20-year-old, Fort MacLeod native, played for the Olds Grizzlys before joining the Red Wings this season, where he was held pointless in eight games.
Higo said the team wanted to add size.
“He’s a big body and (it’s) something we wanted to address,” said Higo, adding Eremenko will play this weekend.
The team also added defenceman Martin Lavallee, who hails from Newfoundland. The 19-year-old was drafted third overall in the first round of the Canadian Junior Hockey League by the Cumberland Grads in 2012.
“He’s 6’1’, closer to 6’2’, and a mobile defenceman that can move the puck. We want him to just keep the game simple,,” said Higo, of adding Lavallee.
“I think we need to be harder to play against, as well. We’re going against three of the better teams in the South Division and we thought in order to be more productive and more successful that we needed to get better. We wanted to forecast down the road too. The games are going to get harder and they’re going to start getting more physical later in the year,” added Higo, of the deals.
Higo said he anticipated more moves would be made in the next few days.