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Return to playoffs a learning experience for Storm

The Grande Prairie Storm have been swept out of the playoffs, but they’re the first to admit their expectations weren’t too high. Head coach Matt Keillor says the team knew they were in tough, as the Whitecourt Wolverines had a 51 point spread on them in the regular season. He says it was more about the experience.

“Especially for the young guys that’ll be returning next year to kind of build the momentum, get a taste of it, and know exactly how hard it’s going to be. Playing a team like Whitecourt… it’s a good experience, I think, for the kids to see how a team like that can elevate their game at playoff time.”

The Storm were officially knocked out Sunday night, when they fell 6-1 to the Wolverines. They lost 6-1 in game one on the road, and 3-2 in overtime Friday.

Heading into the playoffs, the two teams had the largest post spread, with second place Whitecourt finishing 51 ahead of Grande Prairie in seventh. Keillor said the biggest difference in play was their speed.

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“It’s kind of a cliche saying, ‘speed kills.’ All four lines can skate; even down a goal they seem to play the same way.”

The Storm’s focus is now on recruiting and their spring camp at the end of the month. Keillor argues making for the playoffs for the first time in four years will mean a more competitive tryout.

“I don’t want these guys to get complacent and go, ‘well, now we’re a playoff team,’ because we’re not. We were a playoff team this year but we’re not a playoff team anymore; the playoffs are done, so the mindset is that is has to get better, it has to improve, and for the coaching staff this is a fresh start.”

Keillor feels the team started to build an identity over the last 25 games that was largely built around a group of local players like Walker Cote, Cruz Cote and Landon Vollman. He also credits the support of fans and the community.

When former head coach Kevin Higo was fired and replaced in December, the team’s number one goal was to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Now that that’s happened, Keillor hopes he and his staff have done enough to convince the board to keep him on. He also added AJHL legend Mark Bomersback as head scout, and he’s been busy checking out games in Calgary and Edmonton.

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