MOLINE, Ill. – The day initially slated to be the Quad City Storm’s season finale was April 4th. With that day having come and gone, it’s time for a look back at the season that was cut short due to an unprecedented pandemic that has stopped the world in its tracks.
The 2019-20 season was full of highs and lows, and new records for the new franchise in its sophomore season.
Final Record: 16-20-8, 40 points, .455 win percentage, eighth place in the league
Leading Scorer: Taylor Pryce and Stephen Gaul tied for leading scorer this season with 15 goals apiece. Pryce also added 16 assists in 42 games, while Gaul had 13 assists in 44 games.
Best Netminder: Peter Di Salvo takes the cake, with a record of 9-14-2-1-2, 2.5 GAA, and .925 SV%.
High Point: The Storm was set to see playoff hockey for the first time in the franchise’s short history, sitting in eighth place when the season was halted. Though not the best position to be in when the race for the final playoff spot was a three-way tie at 40 points, Quad City did have the leg up with the fewest number of games played against the other two teams vying for the last spot.
Low Point: The special teams’ performance this season was the low point, as they struggled right out of the gate for several weeks before finding their tenuous footing. It took 30 powerplay chances before the Storm finally converted on the man advantage on November 9th, their seventh game of the season. The team finished the season with only a 14.86% power play percentage, eighth in the league. However, they were in a three-way tie for second place in short-handed goals against, allowing seven. Their penalty kill unit ranked lower at ninth place, killing off only 79.17% of their penalties.
Highlight of Season: The highlight of the season would be the second annual New Years’ Eve matchup between the Storm and Peoria Rivermen. Played at the TaxSlayer Center, the Storm took two points from the top team in the league, engaged in some old-time hockey with two fights in the sandwich stanza, and history was made. Connor Fries scored the first regular season hat-trick in Storm history that night, scoring the first, third, and fifth of five goals by the Storm.
Surprises/Disappointments: The team’s performance this season was a surprise. A freshman season where they barely missed the playoffs was unsurprising, but to be in nearly the same position the following season was not expected. A single point separated the Storm from seventh, but there was a difference of 17 points between the sixth-place Knoxville Ice Bears and the Storm. If you had told me at the beginning of the season that the Storm would be struggling for a playoff spot with that large a gap, I wouldn’t have believed you.
The Storm had their moments of grandeur, like the New Year’s Eve game, and their moments of failure, such as the 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Peoria on December 7th. That 6-0 loss was the seventh straight loss for the team, in what would eventually be a nine-game losing streak.
If the season continued…how would it have played out?
If the season had not been canceled because of COVID-19 and the last four weeks of the season had played, the Storm would have remained in eighth place by a hair. With two games against Knoxville and three each against Fayetteville, Roanoke, and Peoria, the Storm had quite the schedule the rest of the season.
With a record of 2-8 against Peoria this season, the Storm probably would have won one of the three remaining Cold War on 74 matchups. The Storm had only played two games against Roanoke this season, splitting the weekend, so the three-in-three series that was to come the week of the season cancellation might have been play-in games.
The last time the Storm had faced off against Fayetteville, the teams duked it out on the ice. The Marksmen were vying for the Coffey Cup against Peoria, each finishing with 71 points in the season, so there was no way the North Carolina team would have taken their final series against the Storm lightly. The series would likely have been nasty and physical, especially if the calls were as scattered like the last time the teams met.
Focus for Offseason
The most crucial area the team needs to work on is their consistency. Too often, the Storm would begin a game lackluster and slow and finish strong, but it would be too late to dig themselves out of the hole they had put themselves in. The Storm showed themselves capable of putting together good performances during a few games, but being consistently inconsistent isn’t useful.
This off-season will be a long and interesting one, as both sports leagues and the world try to adjust to the new normal after COVID-19. With the re-signing of head coach Dave Pszenyczny on March 20th for two more years at the helm of the Storm, things are likely to only improve with more time. After all, time is something we all have plenty of during this offseason.
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