In a two-steps-forward-one-step-back week, Ponoka Stampeders continued to build up confidence in their journey for what they hope to be a playoff spot by defeating Blackfalds for the first time in a few years, overpowering Stettler but falling to Okotoks of southern division.
In their first game of the week against Blackfalds on the road on Tuesday, Nov.24, Stampeders managed to score six goals conceding only three, a result that made head coach Tyler Fiveland happy, proud and more hopeful. It was in the second period in that game that the Stampeders established their supremacy with three successive scores by Braeden Grant, Jordan Wombold and Nate Higgins, adding to the first goal in the first period by Jess Fischer and beefed up by the two goals in the third by Nate Higgins and Teagan Colonna.
Fiveland said defeating Blackfalds was a major confidence booster for the Ponoka boys. “It is now high up in their mind that they can win over teams like Blackfalds,” he added.
The home game against Stettler on Wednesday, Nov. 25 seemed challenging at times but it was overall a rather easy fixture for Stampeders. Ponoka boys got on the board in the first two minutes of the game with Jordan Wombold. In just another minute, Tyson Crampain opened the lead to two goals, but that was all the fans were to see in terms of scoring by any team until well into the third. Five minutes into the second, a major brawl involving all the players on the ice ended up with ejection of players from both teams and a five-minute penalty against Stampeders, who did an effective job of penalty-killing, depriving Lightning of any chance to score. But the Ponoka boys also squandered the chance of a four-minute power play with only four Lightning players on the ice by failing to score.
In the third, the visitors raised the stakes when they scored in the fourth minute sending the hosts to a heightened attack mode, which resulted in Stampeders’ third and last goal of the game in the fifth minute.
In the game against Okotoks on Friday, Nov. 27, Nate Higgings responded to the hosts’ first goal within a minute in the middle of the first, and in the second, Brendan Scott put Stampeders in the lead in the fourth minute. But in the third period Okotoks scored three in a row to extract the two points out of the game.
Fiveland said his team was improving at both the defensive and offensive ends. “We are now having a big handle on the deflections, earlier we were leaving a lot of pucks in the front of the net unattended, now we are helping our goalie a lot more.” He added that, as demonstrated in the game versus Blackfalds, his offensive line was focusing a lot more on scoring.
In the Okotoks game, he said Stampeders had outshot their hosts by a substantial margin and they were all targeted shots.
In an important test of their newly found confidence, Stampeders will take on Blackfalds at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Centre on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 7:45.