MOLINE, Ill. — Heading into Saturday’s contest between the defending Presidents Cup champion Huntsville Havoc and the Quad City Storm, some might have predicted the outcome. A new team beating the cup winners the first time they meet? Not likely, according to some. It’s not impossible, however, but it didn’t happen.

See, that’s the thing; any team is capable of gaining victory against another team. The Storm are fully capable of racking up points against top teams; last month when the Birmingham Bulls came to town on November 9 the home team scored five unanswered goals — before giving up five and losing in overtime. To almost beat the then unbeaten team is no small feat, but they couldn’t finish off strong. The Storm definitely had the chance to improve to 6-7-1, but it wasn’t meant to be. 

The game on Saturday got off to a late start, as there was an ice issue stemming from one of the shows that took place at the TaxSlayer Center this week. On Tuesday Cirque Musica was in town, which required very heavy concrete blocks in their show. The ice in front of the Zamboni doors was crushed; it took almost 12 hours to repair. The delay lasted 79 minutes. 

What the ice looked like Saturday morning when the damage was discovered. Photo Courtesy Carrie Idle

Speaking about the long delay before the game, Coach Dave Pszenyczny said, “You just have to mentally prepare. It’s nothing that I can do, it’s something that each individual has to do, and everybody has their own routine, so there’s no excuse to come out and drop behind two goals like that.”

The delay apparently wreaked Havoc on the Storm, as the first two and a half minutes were brutal for the home team. Huntsville scored twice within that time span, passing lanes being wide open to allow the shots.

The shots on goal count throughout the game tilted heavily in Huntsville’s favor, almost always double the Storm’s tally. Checks by the Storm along the boards often seemed just a hair too late, as the puck carrier would manage to continue on rather than be stopped. A team can’t get shots on goal without controlling the puck more than just every so often; quality is better than quantity, true, but when the puck is possessed mostly by one team, the other must send whatever shots they can towards the goalie in hopes of beating him. The Storm did improve as the game continued, goaltender Eric Levine standing on his head throughout the game.

Huntsville had systems down pat; there’s a reason they’re the most recent cup winner. Passes were crisp, breakouts were good; they dominated, even though they didn’t manage another goal until the shootout. The Storm has the best power play unit in the league, but facing the worst PK in the league it didn’t appear so until early in the third period. The Storm went 25% on the PP but didn’t allow a goal while they were short-handed.

Midway through the second period, it appeared Taylor McCloy had tied the game. Levine was heading to the bench on a delayed penalty, and before McCloy crossed the blue line into the offensive zone his stick made contact with the foot of a Havoc player. That player went down, his stick blade wrapped around McCloy’s skate, but McCloy continued skating through it. As the puck crossed the goal line, a whistle blew. The official wasn’t pointing at the net, but at the blue line. McCloy then had to sit for tripping, much to the ire of almost everyone in attendance. Pszenyczny broke a stick over the bench as he yelled at the referee, but that didn’t change the ruling any more than the yelling from the stands.

Was there contact between McCloy’s stick and the Havoc player? Yes. Was it enough contact to be a penalty? To me, no. From watching the video, it looked like both players made contact with each other in rapid succession in essentially the same manner. If the officials said it was a good goal, there’d be anger from Huntsville; if the Storm had won by one goal in regulation, there’d be questions as to whether the officials handed the game to the Storm. There really was no winning for the officials in regards to how to call it.

The game did go to overtime, however, as John Scully scored his first career SPHL goal to tie it. Could McCloy’s goal have changed the momentum of the game to help the home team? It’s possible, but it wasn’t a goal according to the official, so we’ll never know.

Watching this Storm team, the pieces are there for a great team. I feel like I say that every article, and most of the time the article completely contradicts that statement. The team falls down, and they almost finish a comeback, or they start strong and then give up the ghost to give up the two points. Something needs to change for the team; currently, they’re tied for eighth place in the league with the Pensacola Ice Flyers, holding a .429 record so far.

“We showed good character coming back, but at the same time we’re making the simple mistakes that it’s just one factor at the end of the day to me. And it’s a pride thing; I mean if you truly want to control the puck you can. I feel like we have too many guys in that room that are looking for someone else to do the job for them,” said Pszenyczny.

The Storm travel to Peoria Thursday and Friday, followed by a trip to Tennessee to see the Knoxville Ice Bears. Puck drop for the Thursday contest is 10:30 am CT, Friday’s match in Peoria is at 7:15 pm CT, and Saturday’s game will be at 6:30 pm CT.

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