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Trenton wants win more

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The Storm's Sylvain Dufresne, left, fights for the puck against Trenton's Scott Bertoli. The Storm finishes the regular season 41-26-5 and begins the playoffs Thursday at Reading.

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To say that last night's game at the Sports Arena really didn't mean much to the Storm wouldn't be far from the truth.

Toledo locked up a playoff spot Friday - a best-of-five series with North Division champion Reading that begins Thursday in that city - and regardless of the outcome against Trenton, the fourth-place Storm could not move up or down in the North.

The contest - the final game of the regular season - was crucial to the Titans, though.

With a win, Trenton would finish in second in the North and gain home ice in its opening-round Kelly Cup series against third-place Atlantic City.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Titans beat the Storm 3-0.

"It's disappointing," Toledo coach Nick Vitucci said. "You want to finish on a strong note, but we've had an emotional week and we probably spent all of our emotions [Friday] night [in a win over Peoria].

"I'm sure it was tough to watch. And I'm sure, as players, it was tough to play as well."

Storm goalie Logan Koopmans, who gave up a first period goal to Rick Kowalsky and second period markers to Kowalsky and Brent Robinson, agreed.

"It's been so close and to finally clinch a spot, it was a big weight off everybody's shoulders," Koopmans said. "Everybody was pretty happy.

"I think tonight we were maybe looking ahead a little bit to the playoffs.

"That's all right, just as long as we're ready to go when they begin."

The Storm finishes the regular season with a mark of 41-26-5, good for 87 points. That's a 30-point improvement from last season when the club went 23-38-11 and failed to qualify for postseason play.

"It's like night and day from last year," said defenseman/forward Paul Ballantyne, now in his third Toledo season. "The fight for the playoffs, we've earned this spot the last month or so [going 10-4-1]."

Toledo's improvement just misses - by four points - cracking the ECHL's list of top-10 largest single season point upgrades.

"It's disappointing losing the game and you never want to smile after it," Vitucci said. "But I think we'll reflect on the past six and a half months and it's a pretty positive reflection from everybody's standpoint."

NOTES: Center Scooter Smith was hit by a shot from teammate Doug Andress in the second period and did not return. He suffered a stinger on his foot but is not expected to miss any games. ... Forward Mike James, who injured his kneecap against Johnstown on April 1, is expected to rejoin to the Toledo lineup on Thursday. ... The ECHL announced yesterday that Storm center Carl Mallette finished third in voting by league coaches for the Sportsmanship Award. The honor, which was won by Gwinnett forward Kris Goodjohn, is given to the player who is judged to have exhibited the best sportsmanship combined with a high standard of playing ability.

Contact Dan Saevig at: dsaevig@theblade.com.

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