MOLINE, Ill. — The Evansville Thunderbolts swept the Quad City Storm in their home-and-home series this weekend, winning 4-1 on Friday in Evansville and 3-1 on Saturday in Moline. The Storm had a sell-out crowd for Saturday’s contest, welcoming 5,334 fans into Vibrant Arena at The MARK for not only Union Night but also Dollar Beer Night. Aside from the Storm’s game on Sunday in Vermilion County which was won by forfeit, the Storm has now lost six games in a row.
The Storm led in shots on goal throughout the night, after the first period leading in shots 19-7, which made little difference to the Thunderbolts, as they found the back of the net once in the opening frame. Brendan Harrogate opened the scoring just over four minutes into the game, getting help from Scott Kirton and Tanner Butler. Thirty seconds later, just as the goal was announced, Kirton and Dillon Fournier dropped the gloves in front of Storm goaltender Josh Benson.
“I mean the goals that they scored, we gave them,” said Storm Head Coach Dave Pszenyczny. “The first goal we make a pretty poor change. When we have a D up, we can’t have that.”
The Storm then went on their first power-play of the night a moment later, as Brett Radford was called for interference. The Storm’s powerplay unit was again ineffective, unable to even garner a shot on goal during their first man-advantage. The Thunderbolts successfully killed every power-play Quad City had in the contest. However, this is hardly a new occurrence for the Storm. Their powerplay is now ranked league-worst at 17.2%, two percent above the now-defunct Vermilion County Bobcats and three-tenths of a percent less effective than the fifth-place Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs.
Conversely, the Thunderbolts would prove far more effective at scoring with the man advantage, as they scored twice on three powerplay chances. The Storm rank in the middle of the league for killing penalties, fifth with 78% efficiency.
On the topic of the Storm powerplay, Pszenyczny said, “[it] is lackluster. You’d think we never work on it, we worked on it for two days in a row. Even added more video on it by filming it in practice. We’re so slow to move the puck, it’s like too easy to defend. When we do get a shooting opportunity, nobody wants to get to the net front.”
The Thunderbolts had their first opportunity on the powerplay just under five-and-a-half minutes into the second period, as Mathias Ahman took a seat for high-sticking. Thirty-one seconds later, Mike Moran joined Ahman in the penalty box for roughing, as Felix Sasser tried to fight him after Moran had taken someone hard into the boards. It was during this 5-on-3 penalty kill that the Storm began the nosedive.
The lack of blocked shots during the five-on-three infuriated Pszenyczny.
“We don’t get a blocked shot because we don’t want to block a shot on a five on three,” said Pszenyczny, “and I’m sorry, like that’s what you have to do to kill a five on three.”
Sasser scored what would be the game-winning goal while Moran and Ahman were in the box, Aaron Huffnagle and Derek Osik picking up the assists. The Thunderbolts then took several penalties in a row, but the Storm were not able to capitalize on on the opportunities. Mike Mercurio finally broke Trevor Gorsuch’s shut-out bid late in the second period, when he received the pass from Nick Klishko at the blue line to Gorsuch’s right, skating up along the boards and relesed a quick shot to bounce off the left upright and into the net. Ahman picked up the secondary assist on that goal, the last time a Storm player would add their name to the scoresheet with a point.
With eight seconds remaining in the second period, Moran again took a seat for high-sticking, the last powerplay opportunity for either team. Six seconds later, the lamp was lit for Evansville, Osik scoring his first goal of the season with help from Harrogate.
“Then that third goal, I can’t even. It’s disgusting, that it happens at all levels that I watch hockey at. Players don’t know the basics, like the simple basics of the game and it’s pretty much common sense, but something’s getting lost from when they’re little to where they’re at now and it needs to change,” said Pszenyczny.
The Storm originally was scheduled to play a road game on Tuesday in Vermilion County against the Bobcats, but the league has yet to announce a plan to replace that game for the Storm. For now, they will host the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs on Friday and Saturday at home.
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