The Grand Prairie Storm will be in Whitecourt Friday and Saturday to kick off round one of the Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Head Coach of the Storm Eric Thurston says during the regular season the Storm have done well against the Whitecourt Wolverines, with five of their six meetings being decided by a one or two-point difference.
“They are a very well-coached team, and they have two fantastic defensemen,” Thurston says. “However, we have a very strong goalie in Connor Mackenzie, but I think that match-up is going to be a strong one for us and the rest of it depends on us just going out and playing to how we can.”
The Storm coach explains his focus for the team as they head into the postseason is using their emotions to their advantage during the game versus getting emotional. The biggest lesson the Grande Prairie bench boss says he has seen throughout the season is the character of the players in the room.
“I know when things are going to get tough, and they always are, they are going to stick together, they are going to battle for each other and it is going to be exciting. For me, it is just a real honour to be their coach. How they stick together, I think that is a big part of any team’s success, and I think we already got that in our bag.”
Thurston says the experience and character of the 20-year-old players, including Ty Teows, Robert Pizzey, Mathis Demers and Mackenzie, sets the tone for the team.
“When you get that buy-in from the leadership group that we have had all year, now they can also hold the other guys accountable – but you look at these guys finishing up a very strong junior career, and you hope they go through obviously a great playoff run, and we hope to go deep into the playoffs, so they keep showcasing themselves for next season.”
Thurston says one of the biggest positives of facing the Wolverines in the first round is the possibility it creates for having a fanbase at away games.
“It is good for us and gives us a chance to get our feet underneath us. If you are in Bonnyville and you are putting in seven hours right at the start, that wears and tear down the road after each game takes its toll on you.”
The first two games of the series will be Friday and Saturday night in Whitecourt, with games three and four at Bonnetts Energy Centre. Find the full schedule here.