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The Storm is brewing in Current River

The Current River Storm are looking to build off the inaugural season in the Junior B Lakehead Junior Hockey League

Head coach Robbie Untinen looks back on the last game of the Lakehead Junior Hockey League season for the expansion Current River Storm with regret.

Despite a furious comeback in the third period of Game 7 of the league semi-final against the Thunder Bay Northern Hawks, the home side were able to score late in the game on a powerplay for a 3-2 victory.

“We really haven't stopped working since that game. The next day there was a lot of emotion,” reflected Untinen. “[That said] I just kind of channelled that and turned it into work and started working on the team. [Looking at] what we need to improve, and where I'd like to see us get to. I probably won't get over until the first game happens here and it's a new season, but it's definitely been on my mind for sure.”

The Storm managed to win eleven out of twenty-four regular season games in their first year playing inside the Current River Arena, which included a string of five wins in a row from Jan. 20 to Feb. 11.

The team opened the season with a home and home against the eventual league champion Northern Hawks, losing 7-4 at the Tournament Centre on Oct. 6, which was followed by a 2-2 tie in their home opener two nights later.

“The biggest thing for me [that night] was nerves and chaos, making sure everything was organized at the rink and it was going to go off without a hitch and we didn't even have fans in the building,” recalled Untinen. “I remember trying to help organize the tickets and all that stuff and everything was pretty much right on track and then I got in the room and I'm like ‘oh my goodness, I got to coach this team now’ so we got them ready to go. Then when we went out on the ice, the rink was pretty full for our first game. It was neat to see that the first game was a success.”

Going into next season, the Storm only have a pair of players that have aged out of junior hockey and had as many as 50 players sign up for their identification camp in early June.

The team also made a six-player deal with the Nipigon Elks, sending forwards James Coppock, Ian Zechner as well as Colton McLeod, who played both positions throughout the season. The Storm received forwards Gage Hardy and Brandon McKinnon as well as defenceman Steve Skerritt.

“That's probably the hardest part of our job as a junior coach is you get relationships with these kids and those three boys were great boys for me,” Untinen added. “James’s dad ended up [becoming the coach] in Nipigon so [James] obviously wanted to go there, and the two other boys are from Nipigon. We're adding some size on the back end and two really good forwards.”

McKinnon led the Elks in scoring during the regular season with 36 points in 23 games.

Skerritt compiled 22 points in 24 games and did suit up in a pair of games with the Red Lake Miners of the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL).

The five-team circuit is still working on the regular season schedule for 2023-2024 but Untinen did say that talks continue about moving home game start times for the Storm to 7:00 p.m at the Current River Arena.

“We noticed a little bit of a decline in the fan base when it comes to young guys and girls because of the eight o'clock start time,” said Untinen. “It was very difficult for us last year just to get a regular schedule because we were a new team and the city was trying to accommodate us with as much as they could.”

Untinen added, “Hopefully [with the earlier start times on Saturday nights] we get those young Storm fans back out and cheering on the guys because I know we had a lot of kids in the dress room signing autographs, taking pictures with them and stuff like that. Our players just absolutely love doing that.”

When it comes to making the LJHL a six-team league, Untinen feels the eventual best option might be looking towards an American location, such as Duluth.

Along with the Current River Storm, the Northern Hawks will play home games out of the Fort William Gardens this year while the Bandits home has yet to be announced.

The two out-of-market teams include the Nipigon Elks and Schreiber Falcons.


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