Today is Groundhog Day Eve.
But maybe tomorrow should be called Mill Rat Day this year. No reason, why not?
Rat, Groundhog – not really much difference when you look them right in the face. As if you’d ever want to.
However, today the Summerside Storm is fervently hoping that the Saint John Mill Rats will wake up tomorrow morning and see the Storm’s shadow in the National Basketball League of Canada standings, and be scared out of their wits. They couldn’t care less about the groundhog.
Nothing has changed since last week in terms of the relative positions of the Storm and the Rats in the race for the final National Basketball League of Canada playoff spot. And in this case, no news is very definitely bad news for the Storm.
Summerside still sits 2 1/2 games back of Saint John, but two more games have been ticked off each team’s schedule since last week at this time (each team split their set), and the days are dwindling down to a precious few, as the song says.
The Storm is on the road this week, and play at Oshawa against the Power tonight. An hour and a half before that game, the Mill Rats will entertain the Moncton Miracles.
There are four possible results tonight, and unfortunately three of them are bad for the Storm. Both the Storm and the Mill Rats could win. That’s good for Saint John, because that means they’re one game closer to clinching the playoff berth.
Both the Storm and Mill Rats could lose. That’s also good for Saint John, again meaning they’re one game closer to the end of the season, and their margin over the Storm hasn’t shrunk.
The Mill Rats could win and the Storm could lose. This one’s real bad for Summerside – Saint John would then be 3 1/2 games ahead, with the Storm having only eight games to catch them. Ugly.
And then there’s the one scenario that sheds a ray of sunshine on the proceedings – Summerside wins and the Mill Rats lose, and the Storm casts a big scary shadow tomorrow when the sun comes up in Saint John.
Speaking of shadows, though, there’s another one looming. Oshawa’s overtime win at Moncton on Sunday has put them just one game back of Summerside, and they suddenly have quite realistic hopes of a playoff run, also.
Storm coach Joe Salerno rightly seems to dismiss all this scenario watching, and boils everything down to its essence.
“We got to take two on the road this week,” he said yesterday. “But (Wednesday) we just have to think of Oshawa.”
After tonight’s game is over, the Storm keeps on trucking to London, where they play the league-leading Lightning tomorrow night, before returning home for a game next Thursday against London again.
Perhaps not the best time to experience the roughest part of the schedule, for sure, but the good news is that the games are played for real, and not just in the newspapers like we’ve been doing here.
The Storm has a chance to battle on the floor, and a team can’t ask for more than that.
Bob Gray is a freelance journalist with a long history of P.E.I. basketball reporting. He welcomes comments at email@example.com.