By LoganClow – Daily Herald Tribune
The Grande Prairie Storm have hit the half-way mark of the 2014-2015 season and with an 11-19 record, are currently on a seven day break.
On Nov. 20, the Storm defeated the Drayton Valley Thunder 3-2, courtesy of goals from Ian McLellan, Ben Assad and Clive Rozdeba and a 29-save performance from goaltender Andy Gilker.
It was game number 30 for the Storm – the most of any team in the 16-team league.
“I think everybody is aware of the direction we’re going with the younger guys. Even the older guys have bought in and understand where we’re going with (the season). They understand that there’s going to be some bumps in the road,” said Kevin Higo, head coach and general manager of the Storm, adding he is pleased in the direction of the team.
Because the Storm had seven days off until their two-game road trip on Nov. 28-29 against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, Higo gave the team Nov. 21-23 off, which allowed the players to head out of town to visit family and friends.
The seven-day stretch is the longest break the season thus far, but according to Higo, it’s much needed, especially for players to nurse bumps and bruises.
“We had a lot of individual meetings with guys on (Nov. 18 and 19) and you could see some of our younger guys were mentally fatigued and the break couldn’t have came at a better time for them,” said Higo.
“Nobody was allowed to take their equipment home… just (an opportunity) to get a break from hockey and re-charge and get ready for a stretch here before Christmas.”
The Storm, who returned to practice on Monday, will play 10 more games before the Christmas break. Of that, six are road games against the Oil Barons (two) and a game against Camrose, Canmore, Calgary Canucks and Calgary Mustangs. The team will also play four home games against Canmore, (Dec. 6), Whitecourt (Dec. 12 and 13) and one against Sherwood Park (Dec. 16).
Following their Dec. 21 road game against the Mustangs, the Storm will be off until Jan 2-3 when they travel to play Fort McMurray and Bonnyville.
For the time being, Higo is focusing on the team’s Dec. 1 roster deadline. As per Hockey Canada’s guidelines, teams must have a of maximum of 25 players.
Despite having 24 players listed on the roster, Higo said he’s looking to try and improve the team. Last week, the Storm released Marc Eremenko to the Coaldale Copperheads of the Heritage Junior B Hockey League. The 20-year-old was held pointless in eight games with the Storm.
“If we can get something done before we can leave to go to Fort McMurray, than for sure we will. If not, we’ll probably hold it off until we get back from Fort McMurray, so it’ll be a busy next (couple days),” said Higo.
“A lot of (general managers) are looking at getting something done sooner or later.”
Higo said the Storm are in the market for a goaltender following the trade of Adam Beukeboom earlier this month. Beukeboom, who had previous WHL goaltending experience and was acquired in the Sasha Larcoque deal in August, requested a trade in early November and was dealt to the Flin Flon Bombers.
That deal left goaltender Liam McLeod and affiliate goaltender Andy Gilker, who plays for the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings, in the Northwest Junior Hockey League, as the Storm netminders.
“We’ll have to see with what’s out there for the market and make a decision with where we’re going with the goaltending whether it’s making a change, staying status quo or seeing what’s available out there,” noted Higo.
The Dec. 1 roster deadline also applies for the Kings.