If Ponoka Stampeders could consistently demonstrate the level of skills, commitment and motivation in their play as they did during the second period of their game against Stettler Lightning on Wednesday night, Oct 16, they might comfortably be among the contenders for the Junior Heritage League title.
With the starting whistle of the game, the Lightning began attacking at the Stampeders and found two goals in the first four minutes of the game. To add salt to the wound, the Stampeders were punished with penalty shot in the last two minutes of the first period and went to their locker room 3-0 down.
But whatever head coach Mark Dobler told them during the break, the team that came out to the rink for the second period looked a lot different than the one playing there only 20 minutes ago.
The fast skating, efficiently dribbling, precision passing Stampeders found two quick points in the first five minutes of the second period with Chandler Knibb opening the scoring for the local side in the second minute and Brad Zimmermann adding the second point to the scoreboard within the next two minutes.
The Lightning defence did not take long to get over the shock and quickly pulled themselves together and built up formidable wall in front of and around their net.
Still, the Stampeders, almost setting up camp at the visitors’ half of the rink, refused to give away the control of the puck and kept shooting relentlessly at the Lightning goal. Yet no score came from the effort.
With start of the third period, Stampeders showed great intensity to maintain the momentum of their comeback effort, but as the clock ticked, their skating slowly lost concentration, passes started to go wild and coordination went loose and Lightning scored once more to seal the final result: 4-2.
Stampeders assistant coach Dave Parent said he did not think the decline in the performance in the third period was due to exhaustion.
“In the first period the boys stumbled, but they picked it up in the second period, they found their horses and started to roll on there,” Parent said.
“It looked like we would make a full comeback but we fell short.”
“I think exhaustion was not any part of it, I think the stamina is there we just could not capitalize on the opportunities,” Parent said in reference to the failed attempts to equalize the score in the third period.
“Our problem is slow starts, we dig ourselves a hole difficult to get out of.”
He praised the defense and the goal tending but added that offense should step up their efforts to win games.
“Our top guns should step up and take the bull by the horns.”
On Saturday, Oct. 19, in the second game of the week, Stampeders traveled to Three Hills and lost their game 11-2. Tye Munro scored for the Ponoka side in the first period and Tyson Crampain added one to the small tally in the second period, both unassisted.
No one from Stampeders coaching staff was available for comment on the weekend game.
In two consecutive home games this week, Stampeders will host Red Deer on Wednesday, Oct 23 and Cochrane on Saturday, Oct 26 at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.