MOLINE, Ill. – Success breeds success and that’s the main takeaway from the Thanksgiving weekend for the Quad City Storm. After snapping a seven-game losing streak last week in Pensacola, the Storm started a new streak. In three games, the Storm have picked up six points.
The Pensacola Ice Flyers traveled north for the first time this season. Coming into the match-up, the Storm were the most penalized in the league, but in Friday night’s contest, they lasted almost 35 minutes before going down a man. While certainly a change of pace from prior games, it wasn’t quite what coach Dave Pszenyczny wanted.
“If my team’s not gonna take a penalty then they’re probably not playing the way they should be,” said Pszenyczny following Friday’s 4-1 victory.
Taking fewer penalties is definitely an improvement compared to some of the earlier home games, where it was a near-constant parade to the home team’s sin bin. Pure finesse doesn’t win hockey games, though; the board battles are an integral part of creating scoring chances, and sometimes that means toeing the line of a penalty. Finding the balance of taking a few penalties but not being constantly in the box takes a little practice. By Saturday, that balance was pretty well found against the Evansville Thunderbolts.
The Storm penalty kill unit was near perfect this weekend, allowing only one goal in nine opportunities between their two opponents. The Storm are second in the league for penalty kill percentage, with 85% compared with Knoxville’s 91.3%.
In both games, possession was a short affair for the teams. Rarely did a team possess the puck for long, showing it really is a 200-foot game as fans’ necks had to be on a constant swivel to follow the action.
Saturday was a battle of the goalies, as Eric Levine and Edwin Minney were each working on shutouts for 57 and a half minutes before the first goal was scored.
“It’s one of those games where their goalie played really well, we peppered him with shots, and sometimes that’s the way the game goes and you just gotta have faith and wait until what, two and half minutes, to get the game winner,” said Pszenyczny.
Those close games are the type I love to see, and for a goalie, it’s pretty sweet too. Getting his first win of the season with a shutout, Levine was obviously pretty happy when the final horn buzzed.
“The close games, the one-nothings, as a goalie you can’t ask for anything better, especially in front of a great crowd like this, it’s a lot of fun,” Levine said after the game.
The Storm peppered Minney with shots throughout the game, the final shot count being 35-23 in favor of the home team, but only a few were quality scoring chances. The Storm dressed only five defensemen, as Jake Schultz is on injured reserve, while Ludlow Harris, Jr. and Don Olivieri are in the ECHL with the Norfolk Admirals and Atlanta Gladiators respectively.
The passing on Saturday wasn’t the crispest I’ve seen from the team, but it got the job done. The third period, for both teams, was less finesse and skill and more just crashing the net and sending whatever shot towards the net could be taken. Garbage goals count the same as shots from the point, after all.
This weekend the Storm took on the team directly above and the only team below them in the standings, and were evenly matched throughout.
“We did everything we needed to do,” Levine said of Saturday’s win. “Blocked shots, our PK was great, and our defense did a hell of a job…”
The Storm had issues at the start of the season, facing the same team four times in a row to start. Valuable standing points weren’t won, but the team is fully capable of making up for lost time. They seem to have finally found their groove, so to speak.
The Storm will travel to Indiana to take on the Thunderbolts on Friday and Saturday, with faceoff for both games at 7:15 pm CST.
Be sure to follow @SinBinStorm on Twitter for updates on the team.