By Logan Clow, Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune
Kevin Higo sent a message to his players Saturday night.
After losing 2-1 to the Lloydminster Bobcats Friday at Revolution Arena for their fifth consecutive loss, the Grande Prairie Storm head coach and general manager benched three regulars: defenceman Allan MacPherson and forwards Chase Bell and Dylan Thudium, on Saturday.
The Storm were also playing without captain Blake Bosch, who was serving game one of a two-game suspension for being assesed a major boarding penalty in Friday’s game.
The Storm responded to the roster shake-up with a lacklustre performance, as the Bobcats handed the Storm their sixth straight loss with a 4-1 win.
“Sure it was,” said a disappointed Higo after Saturday’s game, on whether the scratches were a statement to the players.
The losses dropped the Storm to last place in the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s North Division. They now have a 3-8 record.
Brett Doiron and Austin Parmiter scored the Storm’s lone goals over the weekend, both coming on the powerplay. Liam McLeod and Adam Beukeboom split the weekend in net.
“(The weekend) wasn’t very good. When you lose two games, obviously you didn’t play very well,” said Higo.
“I thought (Friday) we lost the game in the first period. We had the opportunity to jump on them and didn’t capitalize and it was just too little, too late. I thought (Saturday) we made some mistakes at the wrong time, but full marks to the guys who came out in the third period and competed.”
The offence has gone quiet for the Storm during the six-game skid. Outscored 21-7, the Storm are the third lowest scoring team in the league, and have yet to score the game’s first goal.
“I think it’s a confidence thing when you get scored on first, guys get a little bit down. I don’t think it’s a point where you have to score first to win a game,” noted Higo.
Higo added that he isn’t panicking yet to make moves.
“You can make as many trades as you want, but you’ve got to find somebody to trade with. I think at this point in time, there’s some teams that are probably comfortable with where they’re at. If we’re able to make some moves to improve ourselves, we will, and we’ll be active as much as possible,” said Higo.
He said the underlying factor for the Storm has been their inability to to capitalize on scoring chances, citing confidence has been an on-going issue that has carried over from last season.
“We’ve got some guys that are getting three or four real quality scoring chances and they’re still not able to score,” said Higo.
“It’s tough, but it’s all part of the process. The guys that I think are the most frustrated are the returning guys from last year. They went through it last year. It’s like work. You have a bad day at work and you have to come back and get ready to go the next day and that’s the exact same thing these guys have to do.”
The Storm travel to play the Whitecourt Wolverines on Tuesday, followed by the Sherwood Park Crusaders on Wednesday.
On Oct. 10-11, the squad is back at Revolution Place to host the Calgary Canucks and Olds Grizzlys.
“Every game is important,” said Higo, of the team’s next four games.
“The division is competitive. We’ve fallen quite a ways down there and to get back up, you start scoreboard watching and start hoping other teams lose. That’s difficult in February but to start (a standings climb) in October is even bigger.”