Storm sees ‘huge honor’ in hosting annual Western States Shootout
Each year, the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) converges on Las Vegas for the annual Western States Shootout, a showcase-style event that is a bona fide smorgasbord for college and professional scouts alike.
The past few years has seen the Las Vegas Storm skate on home ice at the event, something coach-GM Gabe Gauthier is elated to do again Dec. 17-21.
“It is a huge honor to be the host of the showcase,” said Gauthier. “The ability to have a major event like this at your home rink definitely brings a sense of pride as an organization and a sense of comfort for the players.”
And while the event has been in Las Vegas for many years, Gauthier said it has grown and improved in lengthy strides.
“The production and the talent has improved tremendously in the three years the Storm has been involved in the WSHL,” Gauthier said. “There are more players being recognized and advancing in their play career. The league has grown not only in volume, but talent and professionalism. The WSHL has really made some huge improvements in the quality of coaching and recruiting, which has improved the quality of play.
“The WSHL has been and will continue to gain recognition for good hockey.”
Gauthier also noted why Las Vegas is a prime location for the Western States Shootout.
“Vegas offers so many attractions to for all ages and is known worldwide for entertainment and fun times,” he explained. “The travel by airline is virtually direct from every major city in the United States and worldwide.”
All the games in Las Vegas count in the league standings and that is a fact not lost on Gauthier, who has a strong outlook for his club at the event.
“Our expectations are the same as every game – compete harder than the other team and to play together as a team,” said Gauthier. “Last year was a very disappointing showcase as we were only able to earn two of a possible eight points. Our team this year has been a major improvement from last year.”
So far, more than 75 schools had confirmed their attendance at the event – a sign that college see the Shootout as a serious recruitment setting.
“The showcase offers players that unique opportunity to perform for their future as a student-athlete,” Gauthier said. “With so many schools confirmed for this year, the stage will be theirs to have – four games to make a first impression for most schools and in other cases to prove their value as a player.”
The Storm plays the Vancouver Rangers, Wichita Jr. Thunder and Superior RoughRiders at this year’s showcase, in addition to an all-star team from the CPJHL.
Hitting again on the success of the WSHL, Gauthier explained how the league is sustainable on the West Coast, Las Vegas included.
“The teams that occupy the Western Division are located in major cities that have very talented hockey players,” Gauthier said. “The teams in the West offer an experience for players to play very good hockey and not leave home.”
After the showcase, the Storm is off until Jan. 6 when they head to Peoria, Ariz., to start a three-game series with the Arizona Hawks.
“We are very optimistic once the second half starts,” said Gauthier. “We have made changes in the lineup and are at a point where the team has chemistry and is playing together as one. Our goal as an organization this year was to obtain home-ice advantage for the playoffs. Our coaching staff has been instilling their professional experience into these young men.”
— Matt Mackinder