Storm Host Southern Squads
By Logan Clow, Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune
Instead of trick or treating, the Grande Prairie Storm will look to put a scare into Curtis Skip and the Drumheller Dragons on Friday at Revolution Arena.
The Storm, having lost two straight, play a two-game weekend home stand against the Dragons and Okotoks Oilers.
“I think our work ethic has been good. We’ve worked hard in practice and we had a real productive week,” said Kevin Higo, head coach and general manager of the Storm, of preparing for the weekend.
The Storm are coming off a 6-0 loss to the Spruce Grove Saints and 4-1 loss to the Whitecourt Wolverines on their Oct. 24-25 road trip.
The Dragons are 10-4-3 and have won two straight games. Swan City native Curtis Skip sports a 6-4-1 in net for the Dragons. The Storm won their Oct. 19 meeting 2-1 in Drumheller.
“They’re big, they’re physical and they play hard. It’s going to be a tough game,” said Higo, of facing the Dragons.
“It’s going to be a detailed game with them. I think, if you look at their scores, they don’t score a whole bunch of goals. Most of their games are tighter scoring games, but they’ve got lots of depth.”
Saturday, the Storm host the Oilers, who are at the top of the AJHL’s South Division with a 13-5-3 record and have won three straight. The teams met on Oct. 17, the Oilers won 3-1.
Through 21 games, the Storm are 7-14 and have scored a league-low 46 goals and have allowed a league-high 79. The team is also ranked second-last in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with 14 points – three ahead of the Calgary Mustangs.
Offence and team confidence, said Higo, continue to challenge the team.
He said the squad has focused their practices this week on offensive drills.
“They’re definitely lacking confidence when it comes to goal scoring, but that all comes with success and the more you win, the more confident you are,” said Higo.
Higo said the team has a challenge ahead of themselves to get back above .500 and out of last place in the AJHL North Division. Doing so, said Higo, will take time.
“We’re at the bottom, so there’s a very big hill to climb,” said Higo, adding the team has short and long-term goals.
“We’re not looking to go from the bottom of the mountain to the tip overnight. It’s going to take some time and whether we have to take a windy road to get up or the shortest way possible, that’s going to be determined over the next month.”
On Monday, Higo continued to shuffle the line-up by acquiring 19-year-old defenceman Austen Bietenbeck for future considerations from the Coquitlam Express of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League.
He said Bietenbeck, a native of Langley, British Columbia, will be in the line-up this weekend.
“Austen is an established guy who has played a couple of years of junior hockey. He’s a big body and he’s defensive defenceman. We felt like we needed some help on our penalty kill,” said Higo.
The Storm also released Swan City product Colton Sandboe. The 18-year-old defenceman saw limited time with the Storm this season. Sandboe has since re-joined the County of Grande Prairie JDA Kings, whom he played for last year.
Higo said that with a crowded blueline, Sandboe was the “odd man out”.
He said he doesn’t anticipate making any more deals. He said his plan is to re-evaluate the team at the end of the month. All Canadian Junior Hockey League teams, including all Alberta Junior Hockey League teams, must have their rosters down to 25 players by Dec. 1. Headed into the weekend, the Storm have 26.
“We made a lot of moves in the last two weeks and we want to settle down a little bit here and work with this group,” noted Higo.
Game time Friday and Saturday is 7:30 p.m.
Fans are asked to dress up Friday for a chance to win prizes.