There was no baseball-like, champagne-pouring celebration after a big win, but no doubt a huge sigh of relief from Storm head coach/general manager Kevin Higo and assistant coach Dennis Rix on Thursday night in the Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary.
For the first time in six tries this season the Storm skated off with a pair of points away from the friendly confines of Revolution Place after a 6-4 win over the Calgary Mustangs.
“The two points was very important for the team tonight,” said Higo, “but we need to play a more structured game in the future. We were too sloppy in all three zones and need to clean that up.”
They cleaned up well in the offensive end in the first half of the third period when the team turned what was a close tilt into a lopsided one in less than five minutes.
Heading into the final frame the Storm held a slim 3-2 lead, but turned that into a 6-2 margin rather quickly after goals by Logan Mazerolle (5:16), Dolan Bjornson (8:40) and Dallas Comeau (9:42).
The offensive leader for the team Thursday was Zac McNeill with a goal and two helpers.
His third goal of the season came on a penalty shot that gave the Storm a 3-1 lead at 12:13 of the second period. He was the Away Star of the game.
A goal off the stick of Brendan Kallis just 1:40 into the game got the Storm off to a good start, but Yuri Chernichko's tally at 14:27 of the first tied it at 1-1. Felip Gosselin netted his first of the year, on the powerplay, to put the Storm up 2-1 at 6:56 of the second followed by McNeill's penalty shot tally and then a goal off the stick of Mustang Kylor Wall at 18:55 of the middle frame to make it 3-2.
And then the outburst in the third to tuck the game away and secure the road victory and pair of points.
Michael Clarke earned an assist on Comeau's goal and now has 11 points in 10 games including seven goals and four assists. Comeau and Mazerolle follow with seven points each.
Higo was happy with the special teams after a powerplay goal for on six tries and none against on four Mustang PPs.
“Tonight our penalty kill was solid and killed off some penalties at key times in the game,” he said. “That group has worked hard to improve and make a difference. In the third period the Mustangs had some powerplay time and our PK was good.”
Jordan Xavier was the Home Star of the game for collecting assists on all four goals, but that award might have just as easily gone to Mustang netminder Baily Brkin, who was pelted with 49 Storm shots. Eric Jackson was in the GP net earning his second win of the season while facing 35 shots.
The victory got the Storm back to the .500 mark (5-5-1) and moved the club to within a point of fifth place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League's North Division behind the Sherwood Park Crusaders. They are six up on the seventh place Drayton Valley Thunder and 11 ahead of the winless Lloydminster Bobcats – the Royal Bank Cup silver medallists from last spring.
The game marked the halfway point of a four-games-in-five-nights stretch that started with a loss to the Calgary Canucks on Wednesday. The team faces likely its toughest challenge on Saturday when they travel to Brooks to take on the 6-2-2 Bandits, the defending AJHL champions. On Sunday the team travels to Drumheller for a match against the Dragons to wind up the trip.
“We will have two more big tests on this trip,” said Higo. “Brooks is a team that plays at a high temp and is skilled. Drumheller will challenge us physically and will work very hard.”
The team is back home for a pair next weekend. Friday the Dragons are in town and Saturday, Oct. 22 the Canucks visit.