By Logan Clow-DHT
In search of seventh place and the final playoff spot in the AJHL North Division, the Grande Prairie Storm embark on a two-game road trip this weekend.
The Storm (15-29-4), who are coming off a 3-1 home victory over the Drayton Valley Thunder on Jan 24., visit the Sherwood Park Crusaders (22-21-7) on Friday and then play the Spruce Grove Saints (40-6-3) – the top team in the AJHL and winners of their last 14 games – Saturday.
Friday will mark the third meeting of the season between the Storm and Crusaders. The Crusaders won their Oct. 8 meetings 6-0 and the Storm responded with a 6-4 victory on Dec. 16.
Arthur Gordon leads the Crusaders with 15 goals and 19 assists. The Crusaders are without number one goaltender Tommy Nixon (12-3-3), who has been sidelined with an upper body injury since mid-December. Goaltender Zac Klassen has taken over the duties and is 10-18-3 with only two wins in his last five starts.
The Saints sport the longest active win streak in the AJHL and are the second-ranked junior A team in Canada. They’re also ranked fourth on the powerplay and second on the penalty kill.
Offence hasn’t been a problem for the Saints, who lead the league with 204 goals. They’ve also allowed the league’s fewest with 99.
Jarid Hauptman, who is on a five-game point streak, leads the team with 19 goals and 43 assists and is third in league scoring.
The Saints defeated the Storm 6-0 on Oct. 25.
It’s a crucial road trip for the Storm, who remain four points back of the Thunder for seventh place and the final playoff spot. The Thunder, who host the Calgary Canucks and Fort McMurray Oil Barons this weekend, also have two-games at hand.
Forward Tristan Crozier leads the Storm with six goals and 19 assists. Goaltender Logan Thompson has two wins in his last five starts, while Liam McLeod has lost his last four.
The Storm, who return to Revolution Arena on Feb. 6-7 to host the Saints, are ranked 11th on the powerplay and 15th on the penalty kill.
Storm alumnus nomination
Ohio State Buckeyes captain and Swan City product Tanner Fritz has been nominated for the prestigious Senior CLASS (Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School) Award.
As per the CJHL press release: “The award focuses on student-athletes and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition.”
The 20 candidates for the award will be narrowed down to 10 finalists later this season. To determine the recipient, the 10 finalists will be voted on by media, coaches and fans. The winner will be announced during the 2015 NCAA Men’s Frozen Four in Boston on April 9-11.
Fritz, a St. Joe’s alumnus, suited up for the Storm from 2007-2011.
This season, the fourth-year forward has six goals and eight assists through 22 games. The Buckeyes are 7-13-2 record and have lost four straight.