There are losses and then there are tough losses.
Saturday was one of those tough loss nights for the Grande Prairie Storm.
Ahead by two goals in the third period and ready to celebrate a post-game photo with their moms and dads on Parents weekend the Storm lost their way in the final 20 minutes and fell 5-4 to the Alberta Junior Hockey League South Division Okotoks Oilers.
The loss was especially tough because, for most of the first 40 minutes, the Storm were a free-wheeling offensive-minded group that traded opportunities with the visitors and twice took two-goal leads in what was an exciting back-and-forth contest.
It all changed in the third as the Storm went into a bit of a defensive shell, struggling to get out of their own end while relying on netminder Xavier Burghardt to make several enormous saves to keep it close.
But, the dike needed more than Burghardt's finger as the Okotoks sunami overwhelmed the Storm wall and for the first time this season the team fell below .500 at home. After 13 games on home ice the club is 5-6-2.
Credit to the Oilers for coming back from those two two-goal deficits and finding a way to crank it up in front of a hostile crowd.
Credit to the Storm, who rebounded well after allowing two goals in less than two minutes in the second period that erased their two-goal lead. They scored twice in 2:03 later in the second to take a 4-2 lead.
And why is the two-goal lead considered hockey's worst lead?
Certified Sports & Corporate Mental Performance Specialist Walter Aguilar gives four reasons.
1.) Teams go into a defensive posture and take their foot off the gas.
2.) Players begin to play it safe not taking chances (i.e. less offence).
3.) As soon as the opposition score their first goal to cut the lead to one, there is a change in momentum. This leads to the players entertaining fearful thinking. They begin to feel like it is just a matter of time before they get scored on again
4.) Players feel the energy shift and can get discouraged. They begin to over-think their game. This has an energy depleting effect on them. Some teams never recover.
Some, or perhaps all, of that happened on Saturday night. Unfortunately for the Storm they were the last team with the two-goal leads.
Their first two-goal lead was created after goals by Brendan Kallis (10:45 of the first) and Felip Gosselin (2:58 of the second).
Okotoks tied it up at 2-2 quickly in the second- Braeden Nesbitt at 4:29 and Cooper Page's shorthanded tally at 5:57.
Then it was the Storm's turn.
Michael Clarke scored a beauty on a breakaway to make it 3-2 at 13:22 and then Zack McNeill made it 4-2 at 13:25 on a wrister top shelf from 15 feet out.
And then the third period happened.
Tanner Laderoute to the Oilers back in the game at 6:12; Carter Huber tied it at 4-4 at 13:04; and Nolan Thompson netted the winner with just 4:35 to go in the third.
Burghardt ended up facing 35 shots while the Storm fired 17 at Matthew Armitage at the other end.
Only three minor penalties were called in the game with two of those going to the Oilers.
Some good news for the Storm. Attendance was over 1,100. It was the 12th time in 13 games attendance has been listed as 1,000 or more.
And, good news for a Storm fan who walked off with a 50/50 that hit $7,565.
The early season strong showing on home ice helped the Storm build up a solid lead over the seventh place Drayton Valley Thunder and eighth place Lloydminster Bobcats. After the Thunder downed the Fort McMurray Oil Barons 2-1 Saturday the lead is down to two, but the Bobcats are co-operating losing 5-1 to the Calgary Canucks to keep that spread at seven points.
It's a busy week for the team as they play the Pontiacs in Bonnyville on Tuesday; the Saints in Spruce Grove on Wednesday; and then return home for a pair against the North Division leading Whitecourt Wolverines next Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.) in Revolution Arena.