Storm Topple Wolverines

At the end of the hockey season there are games an organization can identify as a turning point.

A situation that created some confidence that helped carry a team to bigger and better things.

A few months down the line when Grande Prairie Storm head coach/general manager Matt Keillor evaluates his club's 2016-2017 performance he may point to Wednesday, January 11 as one of those turning point affairs.

A 5-4 win over the first place Whitecourt Wolverines, 30 points ahead of the Storm in the North Division standings of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, was no doubt a confidence-builder and, if they make the playoffs, could be a factor in a first-rounder against one of the top teams in the league.

What made the victory even more satisfying was the fact they rebounded from being down three different times including 2-0 in the first period.

The fact they also rebounded from an own-goal and two Keystone Koppers by Storm defencemen made it even more impressive.

The first Keystone Kopper came just 1:45 into the game when Storm netminder Arik Weersink and his defenceman couldn't decide who was going to take the puck and Whitecourt's Morgan Messenger pounced on it to make it 1-0.

A similar you-take-it, I've-got-it play allowed the Wolverines to go up 3-2 on a goal by Mitch Lipon at 9:18 of the second.

And then the Steve Smith goal when a Storm defenceman, trying to clear the puck, shot it off Weersink and into the net. Nick Quillan got credit for that one at 1:50 of the third giving the Wolverines a 4-3 lead.

Three bad goals may have wilted some clubs, but not the Storm on this night.

They rebounded to tie it at 4-4 when Walker Cote tipped Carter Wolski's point shot at 3:22 of the third and then one of the highlight goals of the season was the winner.

Michael Clarke, the team's leading point getter with 20 goals and 24 assists, steamed in from the left side on a breakaway and going full steam lifted a nifty backhander under the bar over the shoulder of Whitecourt goaltender Sam-Jaxon Visscher to give the Storm their 11th win of the season.

“It was great to see the guys stay positive after some bad bounces that ended up in the back of our net,” said Keillor. “Even when they took the lead in the third the bench seemed to get even louder.

“Clarke's breakaway goal to seal the deal got the bench fired up.”

Adam Wilson, the game's first star, scored twice and Parker Smyth the other for the Storm while Ryan Grant netted the goal that had put the Wolverines up 2-0 in the first.

Weersink, who faced 45 shots, wasn't selected as a star, but he was. Visscher had to handle just 23.

The Storm netminder came up huge on some point-blank chances, including a Whitecourt two-on-one late in the game, in the second and third periods.

“Weersink had to make a huge save late to hold the lead,” said Keillor. “It was an all-round team win. Those are the ones you appreciate the most.”

It was a hattrick of good news for the Storm.

The two teams chasing them for sixth place both lost last night.

The Spruce Grove Saints downed the Drayton Valley Thunder 5-0 and the Sherwood Park Crusaders topped the Lloydminster Bobcats 4-1.

The Storm now lead the Thunder by six points and the Bobcats by eight.

The Bobcats are in Grande Prairie for a game Friday at 7:30 p.m.