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Published: Wednesday, 3/19/2003

Storm could open playoffs ALL at home


The friendly confines of the Sports Arena have provided quite a home-ice advantage for the Storm this season.

Toledo is 25-2-4 at One Main Street with five home games remaining in the regular season, including tonight against Reading at 7.

With 25-5-3 marks, only Pee Dee and Peoria can rival the Storm's East Coast Hockey League-best record in front of the home fans.

Come postseason time, Toledo (42-14-9 overall) could really bring new meaning to the term “home-ice advantage.”

Should the Storm meet Lexington in the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs, every game in the best-of-five Northwest Division semifinal series would be played in Toledo.

Because of a scheduling conflict at Rupp Arena - home ice for Lexington - officials of the financially struggling franchise have agreed to sell their two home contests to the Storm.

The series dates are April 2 (7 p.m.), 4 (7:30 p.m.), 5 (7:30 p.m.), 7 (if necessary, 7 p.m.) and 9 (if necessary, 7 p.m.)

“We made a deal that we would pay their lodging and their meal money,” Toledo vice president and general manager Mike Miller said. “We gave them a fee to play here with the understanding that we would keep the gate.”

Miller wouldn't divulge the amount of the fee. Lexington also made similar arrangements with Peoria.

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Toledo and Peoria will finish either first or second. Lexington and Cincinnati are competing for the third and fourth spots, with Johnstown making a late charge.

In the Northwest Division semifinals, No. 1 meets No. 4 and No. 2 plays No. 3.

“This leads to an advantage for us, but you still have to play the games and you still have to win,” Storm coach Claude Noel said. “I don't remember ever playing a whole series in another team's building. I've seen neutral sites and I've seen teams play at a location near their home turf, but I've never seen a team play all five games on the road.”

At 9-18-4 Lexington has one of the worst road records in the league.

Should Toledo meet Cincinnati, the series would begin in Toledo on April 2. Game No. 2 would be at the Sports Arena on April 4. Games 3 and 4 would be played in the Queen City on April 5 and 6. Game No. 5 would be back in Toledo on April 9.

Dates have not been established should Johnstown catch Lexington or Cincinnati.

NOTES: Forward Erik Anderson was recalled to Milwaukee of the American Hockey League yesterday. His roster spot for tonight will be taken by Andre Payette, who's been out since the end of January when he broke his hand in a fight in Peoria. ... Goaltender Brian Finley won't dress against the Royals and is expected to miss this weekend's three games. He left Saturday's win over Peoria with a sore groin. Noel said that Finley, who has suffered from groin problems, should be able to play next week. Toledo is looking for a replacement.

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