The Toledo Storm has dug itself a deep, deep hole in the ECHL playoffs, but it will have a major offensive contributor back to help extricate itself from an ominous trench.
Toledo trails Cincinnati two games to none in the North Division semifinals and faces elimination tomorrow night. The Cyclones stole two games in the best-of-five series last weekend at the Sports Arena and could close out the Storm's season in Cincinnati.
But forward Ken Magowan is expected to rejoin the team today. Magowan has not played for the Storm in two months. The left winger was called up to Bridgeport of the American Hockey League on Feb. 16. But Magowan still is ranked in the top 10 on the team in scoring.
"We're thrilled to have him back," Storm coach Nick Vitucci said. "His offensive creativity will be welcomed. But so will his strength. His puck possession is great and he has great physical ability."
Magowan scored 14 goals and dished out 14 assists in 44 games with Toledo this season. Magowan has four power play goals and still leads the Storm with three shorthanded markers.
In 29 games with Bridgeport, Magowan recorded two goals and had three assists.
"They were very happy with him and really like him," Vitucci said. "That's why he stayed there."
But the team will not have other key contributors back from the AHL. Forwards Jamie Tardif and Evan McGrath will remain with Grand Rapids as the Griffins open their first round playoff series tomorrow in Manitoba.
Vitucci said a press conference on Monday regarding the organization's future brought "some closure" to the team.
The Storm organization, which was sold on Monday to a nonprofit group run by the Mud Hens baseball team, also could be playing its last game until 2009. The organization will suspend operations after the playoff run ends for two seasons while a downtown arena is built.
"No one was shocked. We've all known for a long time what was going to happen," Vitucci said. "The players want to just play on regardless of what is happening off the ice. They're focused on what's happening on the ice.
"We haven't talked about it and I don't think many of them are thinking about that it could be the last time anyone wears a Storm jersey."
Toledo has come back from a two-game deficit in the playoffs only one time in its 16-year history.
The Storm trailed Wheeling 2-0 in the 1993 Riley Cup finals, but went on to win four consecutive games.
"Obviously our backs are against the wall," Vitucci said. "But the next game will be the hardest for Cincinnati to win. We want to show up and be the spoilers."
- Mark Monroe
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