By GORDON ANDERSON
Daily Herald Tribune
One team is going on and one team is going home.
The Grande Prairie Storm will host the Sherwood Park Crusaders in the fifth and deciding game of the opening round in Alberta Junior Hockey League playoff action at Revolution Place on Wednesday night.
Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
Along with the usual butterflies and uncertainty surrounding a deciding game there is also a sense of excitement and a tingling, nervous energy that goes hand-in hand with it.
Storm head coach Matt Keillor figures the guys might as well enjoy it.
“We’re still playing and we’ve worked hard this season to get this opportunity because we knew how tight of a series it was going to be,” Keillor said. “Both teams didn’t think they were going to sweep this series. To have a game five is probably what everyone expected.”
Through four games both teams have scored 15 goals. The Crusaders have the advantage on the powerplay, having scored six goals on 25 opportunities while the Storm have four goals in 23 chances.
“We’re hoping to get a big crowd with a lot of energy,” Keillor added. “That’s why we worked so hard to get home-ice advantage for this exact scenario. Hopefully, we can take advantage of it.”
The teams got here because the Storm failed in their first opportunity to put the Crusaders away for good on Sunday night, dropping an 8-5 decision. On Saturday, the Storm picked up a 4-3 overtime win to take a 2-1 series lead.
“You want to find the right balance, coming with the right gameplan or sticking with what happened (on Saturday night),” Keillor said. “Unfortunately, we knew nothing tactically was going to help us win that game, it was mental. They played like they had nothing to lose and we didn’t.”
The club trailed 8-3 after two periods but managed to bag a couple of goals to make the score respectable.
“The third period, we dominated it,” Keillor said. “We doubled them on scoring chances and outscored them 2-0. That’s a positive because the game could have got out of hand.”
Now it’s about regrouping and finding the right frame of mind. The Storm did the hard part and won a game on the road, something that was a challenge for them in the regular season.
Keillor has one more big decision to make in regards to who gets the start in the net for the deciding game.
Rookie Ethan Slobodzian and veteran netminder Charles-Olivier Levesque are both healthy and ready to go.
In the game three win, Slobodzian turned aside 39 shots as the Crusaders had nine power-play opportunities. On Sunday, the rookie got the yank, allowing four goals on 11 shots in the first period. Levesque went the rest of the way and took the loss, allowing four goals on 28 shots.
Keillor hasn’t made up his mind who’s going to get the start. Though he did say it would be tough to put Levesque in the net for the deciding game when he hasn’t started a game since Feb.19, 11 games ago.
“(Slobodzian) got the start in the series,” Keillor said. “He played excellent in game three. If he didn’t play the way he did, we wouldn’t be coming back for game five. He’s done an excellent job and we have to take that into account. We trust both of them can get the job done."
Winner of this series takes on the Spruce Grove Saints in a best-of-seven semifinal that starts on Friday in Spruce Grove.
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