What separates good hockey clubs from average ones is the ability to win games even on nights when they're not firing on all cylinders. Saturday night at the Canada Games Arena, the Grande Prairie Storm were no where close to bringing their “A” game, yet somehow they found a way blank the Canmore Eagles 3-0 in front of 1702 fans.
The win was the 10th in a row for the streaking Storm. In many ways, the letdown for the Storm was easy to foresee, as the club was coming off a hugely emotional contest one night earlier, when they beat Brooks 4-1 to hand the Bandits their first loss of the AJHL season, after 20 straight victories. Coach Blaine Bablitz anticipated his club may not be able to match the intensity of the previous night, but was happy to see they at least played solid in their own end.
“We have a good structure to our team now, which helps us greatly, even on nights when the offensive creativity isn't there. Even though we lacked the energy and emotion of Friday's game, we were still good defensively and didn't let a whole lot of shots through.”
Perhaps fittingly, it was two Storm players who had little or no ice time against Brooks who had the most in their tank this night. Captain Taylor Cote, who was tossed in the first period against the Bandits, scored the only goal the Storm would need. Cote burst down the left wing, went by the defenceman and then deked the Eagles goalie to score the ice breaker five minutes into the second period. The pride of Falher would also add an empty net goal with just seven seconds left in the third.
Meantime, Curtis Skip, who only saw action in warm-up Friday, returned from two weeks away from the club to post his second shut out of the season. Skip, who was with Canada West for their silver medal at the recently completed Junior A World Championships in Nova Scotia, made 30 saves on the night. Although not overly tested in the first two periods, Skip had to shine on four or five first class scoring chances that Canmore had in the final twenty minutes.
Grande Prairie's other goal came early in the third period, when Devin Case deftly redirected Tyler Haiste's shot from the point. Case had moved up on the night from the fourth line to the second, replacing an injured Sam Lawson. Coach Bablitz liked what he saw and felt Case definitely did not look out of place.
“Devin knows our system inside and out. He's solid defensively, yet he also has a knack for always being around the puck in the offensive zone. He showed that tonight with a very nice deflection on our second goal.”
Neither team had a chance to show off their powerplays or penalty killers in this affair. In an occurance about as rare as a blue moon, there was not a single penalty called in the contest—a good indication of the lack of overall intensity of the two clubs, between which there is little to no rivalry.
You can be sure that such will not be the case Wednesday night, as the Storm finish off their three-game home stand against Whitecourt. Although the Wolverines are in their first year in the AJHL, an intense rivalry and dislike has already grown between themselves and the Storm. It'll be Whitecourt's third-and-final trip to the Swan City this season. The Storm won the first two in overtime and are 3-0 overall against the Wolverines thus far.
– Story submitted by Don Whiteford of www.PeaceCountrySports.com