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Published: Wednesday, 2/8/2006

Storm begins a grueling road trip

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

No hockey club relishes the thought of playing four games in five nights on the road, but the Toledo Storm is facing just such a challenging stretch in good shape.

Toledo travels to West Virginia today to take on the Wheeling Nailers tonight at 7:05 for the first of five road contests in seven days. The surging Storm (21-12-5) is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games. Toledo also is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games away from the Sports Arena.

"We're not thrilled about it by any means," Storm coach Nick Vitucci said of the lengthy road trip. "But we're playing well right now. Our roster is intact and we're healthy, so there is no better time to get on the road."

Two of the teams that the third-place Storm faces on the trip are ahead of Toledo in the North Division standings. After opening with division-leading Wheeling tonight, Toledo plays at second-place Reading on Saturday and Sunday. Sandwiched between those contests is a Friday night battle with Johnstown, which trails the Storm by just a point.

"It's not a make-or-break stretch. But it is very important," Vitucci said. "We could close the gap with the teams above us and create a great gap with the teams behind us."

Toledo is 18-8-3 against division opponents.

The Storm finally has stability in net with goalie Drew

MacIntyre (6-1-2), who has started six straight games after being sent from Grand Rapids to Toledo on Jan. 6. MacIntyre, who is 4-1-1 in his last six games, has a goals against average of 2.68 and a .912 save percentage.

"He's played fantastic," Vitucci said. "He's stolen parts of games for sure."

Forward Chris Blight has scored three goals and dished out an assist during his four-game point streak, while fellow forward Bracken Kearns has three goals and two assists in his last three games.

Vitucci said he would be happy to capture seven or eight points out of a possible 10 during the five-game road trip.

"That might be a bit greedy. But we're a good hockey team and if we play the way we are capable of, we should beat these teams," he said.

NOTES: The organization will hold an alumni charity game on Saturday, Feb. 18, at 5 p.m.

The alumni game, which will be held prior to the Storm's game against Wheeling, will feature former Toledo players including Vitucci, Iain Duncan, Pat Pylypuik, Jim McCabe, Ted Tucker and Dave Falkenberg.

The regular-season game against Wheeling will feature the annual Teddy Bear Toss. Fans are encouraged to throw a new stuffed animal on the ice when Toledo scores its first goal. The animals will be donated to the Lucas County Children Services.

Contact Mark Monroe at:

mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-724-6110.


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