The new year means a push for the playoffs for the Ponoka Stampeders and they got a rough ride.
The Stamps fell behind early, then literally fought their way back, only to give up the lead late and lose 4-3 in Red Deer on Jan. 7.
A Ponoka penalty four minutes in handed Red Deer the perfect opportunity and they capitalized to open the scoring on the powerplay. However, the big fireworks would go off later in the frame following a couple of previous tussles that sent players to the sin bin.
Things began to heat up at the midway mark of the first with each team hit with cross checking penalties, then another set of coincidental penalties were dished out two minutes later.
But things blew sky high with just over three minutes to go in the opening period when a hit by Ponoka’s Kacey Straub, that was due to be penalized, caused a line brawl. The brawl — a rare sight in the game these days — saw four fights going on at the same time, including both goaltenders going at it.
Straub, Nate Higgins, Walker Guthrie, James Jansen and goaltender Carter Gendreau were tossed for their parts in the brawl. Ponoka ended up with the extra penalty and that led to another Red Deer powerplay goal before the end of the period.
In the second, the Stampeders managed to find their way back into the game, scoring three straight to take a 3-2 lead.
Chevazz Rabbit got Ponoka on the board just over two minutes in, followed just one minute later by a goal from Jacob Sayler. Shae Reynolds put Ponoka ahead with a powerplay goal with slightly less than eight minutes to go in the middle stanza. Unfortunately, Red Deer would tie it about three minutes later and then get the only goal of the third for the victory.
Ponoka was once again outshot, this time 37-32, and remain in the final North Division playoff spot with 19 points, a full eight points up on Three Hills in last place.
The club is at home tonight (Jan. 11) to Stettler, who sit in fifth place in the division, 11 points ahead of Ponoka. Puck drop is set for 7:45 p.m. at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex. The Stamps will then play in Airdrie Jan. 13 before hosting Mountainview on Jan. 15 at 2:30 p.m.
Hoof prints: The line brawl from last week has resulted in a pair of Stampeders winding up on the suspended list, including Ponoka’s top scorer. Both Kacey Straub and Nate Higgins were handed one-game suspensions for their involvement in the multiple fight situation in Red Deer, meaning both will miss the big contest against Stettler. It’s unfortunate for the Stamps as Higgins — who leads the team with 28 goals and 13 assists and sits fourth in league scoring — will be missed by a team whose next top two scorers have just 21 goals combined.