By Logan Clow, Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune
Riding a four-game losing skid, the Grande Prairie Storm will embark on a two-game road trip this weekend for a game against the Bonnyville Pontiacs and Spruce Grove Saints.
In addition to their 2-9 road record this season, the Storm are also last in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with a 7-16 record, have scored 49 goals – the fewest in the league – and have allowed 88 goals – the most in the league.
“We want to work and we want to get some stuff accomplished and (we’re) still trying to get the 60-minute effort and get some consistency to our game, but every game is a different story, so we just want to take it period-by-period,” said Kevin Higo, head coach of the Storm, on Thursday, of the road trip.
“I think the guys have been very good. It’s a situation where they understand the struggles we’ve gone through. They understand the limitations that we have. In practice this week, the guys have been working hard, we’re getting stuff done and unfortunately we’re not getting the results we want. But, we are seeing some strides forward and that is a positive thing.”
Friday will mark the fourth meeting of the season against the Pontiacs.
The Pontiacs, who are 9-7-5 and tied for fourth in the AJHL North Division, have shut out the Storm twice this season with 3-0 victories. The Storm won 6-4 in their Sept. 6 meeting.
Earlier this week, the Pontiacs lost 5-2 to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
“They played this week and we were able to watch them. (Tuesday) was definitely not their A game. They didn’t get off to a good start, so we would expect them to be sharp early,” said Higo.
“Matching their intensity and their energy in the first period is going to be important. It’s a different game in Bonnyville because their neutral zone is small, so your zone time in the offensive and defensive zone is going to have to be productive.”
Saturday’s match will see the league’s last place team face the top team in the AJHL. The Saints are the seventh ranked junior A team in Canada.
The Saints hold court of first place with a 17-4-2 record. They’ve also scored a league-high 94 goals and shut out the Storm 6-0 on Oct. 25 in their lone meeting of the season.
The Saints, under head coach Jason Mckee, who was named last season’s AJHL and CJHL Coach of the Year, also have the league’s third-ranked penalty kill (88.5%).
Higo said the game will be a good test for the team to see how they match against the best in the league.
“(The Saints) like to get the game going with a real high tempo and if you allow that to happen it’s really hard to stop them,” said Higo.
“They’re one of the top teams in Canada for a reason. They’re a really good team. They play with a lot of speed and tempo, so you just have to do a lot of little things to combat that.”
Saints centre Jarid Hauptman leads league with six goals and 24 assists.
Meanwhile, forward Jade McMullen continues to lead the Storm with 14 goals and nine assists.
Tuesday, the Storm will than travel to play the Drayton Valley Thunder.
On Nov.. 14-15, the squad is back at Revolution Place to host the Brooks Bandits and Calgary Mustangs.