The improvement continues early in the season as the Ponoka Stampeders doubled their win total with weekend split on the road.
The Stampeders earned a comeback victory on Friday night, Oct. 9, in High River with a 5-4 win in a shootout over the Flyers and then were left in the dust Saturday, Oct. 10, in a 5-1 loss to the Cubs in Medicine Hat.
It was another slow start for Ponoka in High River, as the Flyers took a 2-0 lead after one period before the Stampeders scored a pair off the stick of Mik Doell – the first coming only 14 seconds into the middle stanza and the next on power play about two minutes later.
“We started out slow once again and the good thing for us is that Mik decided to take things on by himself, even scoring the shootout winner,” said Stampeders head coach Tyler Fiveland.
Special teams would prove crucial in this contest with only the opening goal of the game coming when the teams were at even strength.
High River regained the lead with their second power play marker of the game near the midway point of the period, only to see Ponoka’s Nate Higgins tie the game at 3-3 with about six minutes remaining in the second on a shorthanded effort. That score didn’t last long as the parade to the penalty box continued for both teams, who combined for nine minor penalties in the first and 14 in the second, not including a pair of fighting majors in the middle period.
And it was Ponoka’s penalty killing that couldn’t hold back the Flyers, who took the lead once again on a power play with 3:30 left in the second.
The rough and tumble play continued in the third period, with another set of fighting majors dished out along with seven more minor penalties.
Only this time, the Stampeders were the ones to capitalize on the power play and the only goal of the final frame, as Doell notched his hat trick goal just over four minutes into the period.
“Our special teams have been really good and the thing we are doing differently is we have a guy getting to the front of the net,” stated Fiveland. “And Nate has some great hands, which is how he just pick-pocketed the guy to get the shorthanded goal.”
Ponoka put up some impressive numbers on the shot clock again, outshooting the Flyers 53-28. The win was also the first for Stampeders’ junior netminder Carter Gendreau.
Fiveland added though, it’s been tough getting his team to understand the need to clog the front of the net when they are playing at even strength.
“We have been cycling the puck too much or simply hitting the goalie in the chest and not getting those second chances or having someone close by if there were any rebounds available. This is something we need to change,” he said.
That’s exactly what happened to the Stampeders in their 5-1 loss in Medicine Hat, as only Jordan Wombold, who got his first of the season, found the twine in spite of the Stampeders firing 45 shots on net.
The weekend split leapfrogs them into fourth spot in the Heritage Junior Hockey League’s North Division standings, a point up on Stettler, and one point back of Three Hills and their next opponent, Blackfalds – who they face tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 14) at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.
“We have a few former Blackfalds players in our line up who believe they have something to prove and I also want our team to show our division just what we can do,” stated Fiveland.
Face off is slated for 7:45 p.m.
The Stampeders also play host to Okotoks on Sunday, Oct. 18, with puck drop set for 2:30 p.m.