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Published: Thursday, 10/3/2002

Noel surveys Storm progress from above

BY DAN SAEVIG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

FAIRBORN, Ohio - Claude Noel passed yesterday on his first opportunity to work behind the Storm bench.

The new Toledo head coach instead turned the duties over to assistant Mark Bernard and found a seat in the corner of the E.J. Nutter Center, where he saw his team drop a 5-3 exhibition game to the Dayton Bombers.

Playing without regular defenseman Matt Eldred and winger Alexandre Jacques, who did not dress, Noel watched his early training camp lineup give up four unanswered goals.

Ex-Storm winger Andrew Williamson scored twice for Dayton, as did winger Ryan Vince. Toledo got goals from Dan Carney, Darcy Anderson and Martin Miljko.

Of the 18 players who skated for the Storm, as many as half may be gone by the start of the East Coast Hockey League season next week. Over the next few days Toledo is expected to receive an influx of players from National Hockey League affiliations with Detroit and Nashville.

“I was happy with some, disappointed with others,” Noel said. “I wanted to get a read on how players were going to compete and on their decision process under pressure.”

Toledo's best forward was newcomer Mike Bayrack, a member of Muskegon's United Hockey League championship team last season. He joined the Storm earlier this week after scoring 29 goals and 34 assists in 71 games for the Fury in 2001-02.

Goaltender Brian Finley, assigned to Toledo by Nashville, looked sharp, stopping 11 of 12 shots in 30 minutes of action. The only goal he gave up came off a rebound after he made the first two saves.

“I was trying to get used to the pace of this league,” said Finley, the Predators' No. 1 pick (No. 6 overall) in the 1999 draft. “I thought it went all right.”

Toledo's weakest area yesterday was defense. Except for an occasional flash from ex-Bowling Green Falcon Grady Moore, the backliners struggled. The lack of a power-play quarterback was especially noticeable. The Storm went 0-8 with the man advantage.

The two clubs meet again Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Toledo. It's the Storm's final pre-season tune-up before the regular-season opener Oct. 11 at the Sports Arena against Peoria.

“The important thing for me is to gather information on individuals so that I can make intelligent decisions on who do we keep, who do we not,” Noel said. “I don't have the time to wait and say, `Well, we're only playing two games.' There's certainly an urgency right now for players to show us what they've got.”



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