Grande Prairie sitting third in North Division
By Logan Clow, Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune
Now sporting a 3-3 record, the squad has been blanked in all three of their losses.
“I really liked our game on Friday in Lloydminster. It's a real tough building to win in. We set some goals out and challenged the guys on the Friday game and did very well,” said Kevin Higo, head coach and general manager of the Storm.
“I liked our push back on Saturday. We didn't have a good first period at all and the guys really pushed back in the second and third, made a game of it and battled through. Like I say, we didn't have a really good start, but we competed to the end.”
Friday, Storm forward Jade McMullen led the way for the Storm, with a pair of goals and an assist. Forwards Hayden Berra and Ben Assad also found the twine, Dylan Thudium and Ian McLellan chipped in with two assists each. Goaltender Liam McLeod made 31 saves for the win.
Saturday, the Pontiacs outshot the Storm 44-19 and scored twice in the first period, en route to a 3-0 win; McLeod took the loss in net.
He says goaltender Adam Beukeboom, who was released from the Prince George Cougars of the WHL and has been with the team since Sept. 9, still has not received his release forms from the Cougars allowing him to suit up for the Storm. Higo says he was pleased with McLeod's performance in the interim.
“I thought he was all we asked from him and with all of our goalies, is to give us a chance to win and I thought he (McLeod) did that in both games. He made some timely, key saves in the game on Friday to get the win. He kept us in the game in the first period, for sure, on Saturday and his game management was really good,” said Higo, adding he's unsure when Beukeboom will suit up.
Although it's early in the season, Higo says he is not concerned of team inconsistency as of yet.
“If consistency is an issue, we're doing all right, seeing where we are in the standings,” said Higo. The team was in third place in the AJHL North Division, as of press time.
“I think you just have to understand that the division is so tight. I've talked to many of the coaches in the division and many of them feel they have a chance to win every single night. Sometimes it's not your performance that dictates whether you win or lose, maybe the other team is just a little bit better.”
The team will have Monday off and returns to practice Tuesday afternoon.
Forward Jade McMullen leads the team with six goals and two assists and is second in AJHL scoring.
Higo says the team's veterans, such as McMullen, continue to impress.
“They've all been given an expanded role – much larger than they had last year or the years before and it's part of the learning curve, as well,” he said.
“The expectations, from not only the team, but for themselves is fairly high. It takes some time for them to understand and accept. This is something new for Jade (McMullen), where he is in the scoring race. He's going to have to learn as he goes on and the same with the rest of the guys.”
The Storm will make their return to the annual AJHL Showcase in Spruce Grove on Sept. 26-27.
On Friday, the Storm will play the Calgary Canucks followed by the Okotoks Oilers Saturday.
In the seven-year history of the event, no team has dominated it like the Storm. Heading into this year's event, the Storm have a 11-3 record.
Higo says he was unaware of the team's success at the showcase.
“I know the coaches and general managers will be there as much as they can and get a feel for the league and see where everybody fits in,” he said.
“To be honest, I don't how how the Storm have done in the past (at the Showcase). To us, it's an opportunity for the guys to showcase their talents in front of a large amount of scouts, and to us, it's game number seven and game number eight (of the season).”
The Showcase typically includes scouts for nearly every level of hockey, including the NHL, NCAA, WHL and various university/college-level teams.
Last year's showcase featured 140 registered scouts (an AJHL record) in the stands, and all but one NHL team was represented. There were 70 scouts from NCAA schools, as well as several from the Canadian post-secondary schools.
The Storm return to Revolution Place on Sept. 30 to play the Drayton Valley Thunder.