By GORDON ANDERSON
The Grande Peace Athletic Club (GPAC) AAA Midget Storm are back in home action this weekend when the Calgary Royals and the St. Albert Raiders come to town for Alberta Midget Hockey League games.
The Calgary club is here for a noon start on Saturday and the Raiders will come in for a 3 p.m. start on Sunday. Both games are at the Coca-Cola Centre.
Currently, the Storm (7-2-0) sit second in the North Division, four points behind the Raiders (8-0-2), with one game in-hand on the St. Albert club.
Last weekend, the Storm picked up a pair of home wins. The midget club earned a 4-3 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Saturday and completed the double with an emphatic 7-1 win over Edmonton based Canadian Athletic Club (CAC).
“Every other game this year, it seems, it’s almost come down to a pulled goalie (situation) or an empty net (goal),” Storm Assistant Coach Jordan McTaggart said. “It was nice to stick with the program and pull away a bit.”
“We made more plays in the offensive zone and we worked harder, made simple plays and tried not to be individuals out there,” Storm defender Wyatt Day said. Day added a couple of assists in the win over CAC.
The Storm are 4-0 at home this season with five more home games slated in the month of November.
In the last eight games the club has played, six of them are one-goal games. The team is an impressive 5-1 in those situations.
McTaggart noted a lot of the success in the games decided by the slimmest of margins come down to a more mature squad who display a “been there, done that” wherewithal. This club believes they can win a championship, so one-goal games should be commonplace in the 34-game schedule. They have shown the ability to drive the bus home and get it parked safely in the garage.
“We’ve got a pretty confident, older group with a lot of returning guys from last year who had a lot of success,” McTaggart said.
“(It’s) a skill, something that a team needs to develop, is the ability to not lose composure,” Head Coach Chris Schmidt added. “You’d like to have comfortable wins because, as a coach, it gives your gray hair when it’s a pulled goalie every game. Realistically, (that’s) what the playoffs are, you have to be able to play whether up and down.”
As with many things, repetition is the key to success, just as much as success is key in those areas.
“If you’ve been in a situation, it’s always easier the second time or the third time,” Schmidt said. “It becomes a habit. ‘OK, we’ve been here many times (before), let’s do it, do what we do.’ Each team has to learn that.”
Special teams splendid
The club picked up three power-play goals in the win over CAC and it had to warm the hearts of McTaggart and Schmidt to see the club get a multitude of chances on the powerplay.
But what was encouraging about the penalties was the nature of the calls. The visitors picked up 10 minors, many in the ‘who’s, who’ list of retaliatory penalties like slashing, cross-checking, boarding and checking to the head.
“They get pretty rambunctious to play and to score goals and most games there are going to be tempers flaring and that’s something we’ve been working on, staying level headed and keeping our composure,” McTaggart said. “The referees are going to call the stuff after the whistle and the punches in front of the net. It’s important to stay disciplined and you will get a few calls go your way, if you do so.”
Time added on
It’s not like Jordan McTaggart doesn’t have enough to do already.
Being the Owner, Head of Strength and Conditioning and Head of Hockey Performance at TAGS Athletic Gym—sounds like a lot of work in of itself—but the 26-year-old decided to dedicate even more time to hockey.
Currently, he’s an assistant coach with Chris Schmidt and the GPAC AAA Midget Storm squad.
The Grande Prairie resident isn’t exactly sure where his hockey coaching career is going, but he finds it as personally rewarding as playing the game itself, as he explains.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure (what my goals are) but I know it’s something I’m passionate about,” McTaggart said Saturday afternoon at the Coca-Cola Centre. “I’ve found a lot of enjoyment in coaching, almost more than playing. I’d like to do it for a long time and keep moving up the ranks. Right now, I’m happy where I am and working with (Schmidt). I’m super lucky to be working (with) him.”
In his first year of coaching elite level teens, the former Grande Prairie Storm forward has found his role to be different than he previously thought, going in to the start of the Alberta Midget Hockey League season.
“Just seeing how much you have to manage the players day to day,” McTaggart said when asked about the biggest surprise he’s found in his current role. “There’s a lot more coaching, besides than just on the ice, in practice or during games. You’re coaching personalities and attitudes, constantly monitoring and managing intensity levels and emotion. I didn’t realize how much of a part that plays.”
And until the rookie figures out what to do next, he’s very much enjoying his time around the club.
“(Schmidt is) unbelievable,” McTaggart said. “I’m just trying to enjoy every practice and enjoy every workout. It’s been awesome being around him.”