MOLINE — The Quad City Storm have stumbled out of the gate this season.
Despite heightened expectations in their second season, the Storm are 1-3-1 and once again ninth in the league after finishing there last season. With the team's first five games coming against some of the top teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League, the record isn't as concerning as the team's struggles on special teams.
The Storm rank last in the league on both penalty kill and power play. While it appears strides are being made on the penalty kill — the Storm have killed off eight of their last 10 penalties after killing off just four of their first seven — the power play continues to be punchless, now 0 for 27 to start the season.
Scoring on the power play is something the Storm likely couldn't do if they tried.
"Puck's not going in the net," coach Dave Pszenyczny said. "We're getting good looks and I've mixed up the lines, I've run different plays and it's like, we're hitting posts, we're hitting crossbars. It's right there and it's like we're missing it just wide of the net on the rebound. I don't know if guys are gripping their sticks a little too tight right now."
Teams go through these spells at times during the season — Evansville comes into this weekend's games against the Storm having scored just once in its first 25 chances, Macon is 1 for 21 and Knoxville is 2 for 23.
So the Storm aren't panicking about the 0-fer to open the season.
"It's just not clicking right away, but I don't think that's really an issue," forward John Schiavo said. "I think you see it in the NHL all the time where guys just go through stints. We're getting our chances, we're right there and I think once one goes in, it's going to be a ton of them going in.
"It looks really bad on the statcard. It looks really bad if you're not watching the game. But if people are watching us practice it all week and then go into the game and not go into the net; we're doing all the right things to get them to fall."
There's plenty of skill on the team — seven players have at least three points through five games — but for some reason, when the Storm have the man advantage, they fail to capitalize.
They're hoping with a little more time also comes a little more chemistry from those out there.
"We're getting used to each other, it's only five games. For us to be panicking five games in is a little outrageous," Schiavo said. "We're all still getting to know each other, we've added some guys to the power play ... with us shooting more and more I think Evansville is going to be hard pressed to stop us this weekend."
You have free articles remaining.
One glaring problem is the team has struggled getting into the offensive zone, and that's led to issues going the other way. The Storm have surrendered three short-handed goals this year, the most in the league, two of them coming off of turnovers in the defensive zone.
As a result, the Storm are looking to simplify things.
"It's going to go back to meat and potatoes, keep teams honest. A lot of shots, cause chaos and we obviously have the talent to make those pretty plays but we can't make those plays until we start keeping teams backed off," Pszenyczny said. "I think it's no secret nowadays that penalty kills are trying to take advantage of opportunities. It's not like the old days where you get it and dump it down, teams are actually looking to create offense and hope that power play team at least takes a penalty."
Storm honor military: The Storm allowed fans to paint the ice Tuesday at the TaxSlayer Center with the names of friends and family who have served in the military in preparation for their game Saturday against Evansville.
Some players also took the opportunity to honor those who have served, including Dean Yakura, who painted the names of three people on the ice — Dan Obermann, Walter Osswald and Gil Farmer. Yakura has only met Farmer during his time with the Pensacola Ice Flyers and painted the other two names as a favor, but the opportunity to honor those who have served is not one he takes lightly.
"I just wanted to pay my respect and I thought it would be nice to do that," Yakura said. "I think it's great. Our fan base is incredible and to have them be able to come out and paint the names of people very important and special to them ... it's showing that respect and thanking them for their service."
Prior to the game, the national anthem will be performed by Joe Everson, a Greenville, S.C.-based artist who has become known for speed painting while performing the anthem.
Following the game, there will be a jersey auction to benefit Guide Dogs of America.
Roster moves: The Storm signed defenseman Alex D'Oliveira to a three-game tryout Wednesday. D'Oliveira, 26, played one game this season with the Peoria Rivermen, not tallying any stats. The Georgetown, Ontario, native played last season with Amals SK in Sweden, scoring five goals and adding 24 assists in 29 games.
The Storm are also dealing with some injuries as defensemen Sean Kacerosky and Cody Walsh are day-to-day. Pszenyczny hopes D'Oliveira can help shore up a back end that is allowing a league-worst four goals per game.
"I was bringing in a D-man regardless, it didn't matter if they were banged up or not," Pszenyczny said. "Right now, in our D-zone, we're good positionally but as soon as we get the puck, we make a stupid turnover. Right now, every little play is going in the back of our net, it's almost like we have to play perfect hockey."