The Storm took a Sleigh ride back into the fourth and final playoff spot in the ECHL's North Division last night at the Sports Arena.
Toledo's Pierre-Luc Sleigher grabbed the reins, scoring his first professional hat trick in a 4-1 victory over the Johnstown Chiefs. The three-goal effort, coupled with Atlantic City's 3-2 regulation decision against Peoria, was enough to lift the Storm over the Rivermen in the standings.
Toledo now has 81 points while Peoria has 80. Both clubs have played 67 games and each has five contests remaining, including a head-to-head matchup at One Main Street next Friday.
"I had three hat tricks my last year [2002-03] of junior hockey," Sleigher said. "This was a huge win and I feel like a big weight is off my shoulders now. When you get that second goal you are always looking for that third one and my linemates helped me get it."
Sleigher was playing right wing on a unit with Kevin Bergin on the left side and Scooter Smith at center. The trio combined for all four of the markers and 14 of Toledo's 45 shots on goal.
"We talked before the game about communicating well out there," Smith said. "We were all over them and supported each other."
The line began partnering at 3:26 of the opening period when Sleigher got his first: a power-play rebound off a Paul Ballantyne point shot that Bergin tipped on the way through.
After Smith broke a 1-1 deadlock midway through the second with an unassisted goal off a turnover, Sleigher scored again at 15:01 of the frame.
Chiefs goalie David Cann stopped a low shot by Steve Slonina, but lifted his glove off the ice to check for the puck and at that moment Sleigher knocked the disc home from the crease.
Sleigher's trifecta was secured at 10:33 of the third when Bergin pulled the puck off the wall to the right of Cann, turned and fed his linemate, who only had to direct it in.
"I knew the defenseman [near Sleigher] wasn't looking at the puck," Bergin said. "I was trying to get him his hat trick. I was hoping he could tip it."
As he skated off the ice after being introduced as the No. 1 star of the game, Sleigher waved to the crowd and then grabbed the Storm crest on the front of his sweater.
"I did that in junior, too," Sleigher said. "This team means a lot to me and I want people to know that I'm going to work hard for my club."
NOTES: Storm winger Mike James - who was acquired from Johnstown last month - left the contest 2:27 in after taking a knee-on-knee hit from Peter Trovato and did not return. X-rays were being taken post-game to determine the extent of any damage. .●.●. Center Danny Lapointe made his Storm debut. Signed out of the Western (junior) Hockey League, Lapointe is a 6-3, 198-pounder who had four goals, eight assists and 39 penalty minutes in 30 games with Spokane and one goal, 11 assists and 51 PIM's in 33 starts with Prince George.
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The Storm took a Sleigh ride back into the fourth and final playoff spot in the ECHL's North Division last night at the Sports Arena. Toledo's Pierre-Luc Sleigher scored his first pro hat trick in a 4-1 victory over Johnstown. The win and Atlantic City's 3-2 regulation decision against Peoria, lifted the Storm over Peoria in the standings.