By LOGAN CLOW
At this juncture in the AJHL season, it’s mathematically impossible for the Grande Prairie Storm to climb in the standings.
Matt Keillor, head coach and GM of the Storm, said it’s important that, instead of dropping, the team defend their position in the standings to lock down a playoff berth.
With nine regular season games remaining, the Storm, in the midst of a six-game skid, are 12-33-6 and ranked sixth in the AJHL North Division.
Pending a significant push from the eighth place Lloydminster Bobcats, or a major collapse from the Storm – however you want to look at it – the Storm appear to have locked up a playoff berth for the first time since 2012-2013. Whether that’s six or seventh place remains to be seen.
“The mentality is that we’re in a playoff spot and there’s teams that are chasing us and we’re not chasing anybody. We’re just basically trying to improve every day and get ready for a playoff series,” said Keillor, of their approach to their last nine games.
“The kids know the importance of the games coming up, especially next weekend against the two teams (Drayton Valley and Lloydminster) that are looking at us from the back right now.”
Headed into this weekend, with the Storm set to host the Fort McMurray Oil Barons for a pair of games, the DV Thunder trail the Storm by two points, while the Lloydminster Bobcats are seven points back.
Keillor isn’t looking too far ahead into the team’s three-game road trip next weekend against the Thunder and Bobcats.
First and foremost is playing the MOB, who are second in the AJHL North with a 35-10-3 record, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Revolution Place.
“They have a very good team and they’re very well coached,” said Keillor, of the MOB.
The Storm will have forwards Walker and Cruz Cote back in the line-up Saturday after serving their suspensions for ‘staged fighting’ on Jan. 21 in Bonnyville. Forward Landon Vollman will miss this weekend as he continues to serve his suspension.
“It gives opportunities for some other guys to receive some more ice time than (they typically would). At the moment, we have eight defencemen, so it gives us the possibility to dress an extra defenceman and it gives some of those guys to showcase themselves as well,” noted Keillor.
The Storm have lost all four previous meetings against the MOB this season.
Special teams has been a key component for the MOB this season. They have a top five ranked powerplay and penalty kill unit.