After watching Stampeders’ last two games, many fans might be wondering whether Ponoka boys, who took to the ice every week since the season began with the same enthusiasm and energy, regardless of the losses piled up in previous games, could have done better if they had better coaching and instruction.
It was not a big change when it came to the score, Stampeders lost to Lightning 4-2 on Tuesday, Jan. 13 on the road and to Three Hills 6-4 on Saturday, Jan 17 at home; but the way they continued to fight despite lack of hope of any playoff action just seemed to demonstrate their love of the game, no matter what the outcome may be.
The spectacular comeback effort in Saturday’s game on home ice was truly worthy of a playoff performance. After falling back 4-0 at the end of the first period, Stampeders blew like a hurricane on the rink closing the gap to a single point beginning very early in the second. Just 35 seconds into the period, Travis Woodford scored the first goal, followed by Tye Munro just two and half minutes later. And another two and a half minutes later, Braeden Grant made it three for the hosts, leaving the visitors in shock.
The unexpectedly strong comeback by Stampeders raised not only the stakes, but also the tension on the ice, leading the game to get rougher and rougher with players on both sides being punished for unsportsmanlike conduct alongside the usual interference, slashing and roughing penalties.
Thrashers, however, did manage to pull themselves together in the latter half of the second period and scored once more to keep their cushion at a safe two points to finish at 5-3.
When the third period began, visitors were careful not to allow the hosts the scoring opportunities which Ponoka boys so masterfully exploited in the second. And to secure their position, they made sure to score one more in the first two minutes of the third widening their lead to three points again. But Ponoka boys did keep on attacking the Thrashers net and were awarded with their fourth point, which came through Kaden Leibel. The third period also had its share of rough conduct, including once leading to a fistfight.
Earlier, in the game against Stettler on Tuesday, Jan. 13, Stampeders began to attack the Lightning net right from the beginning, but the hosts managed to find the holes in the Stampeders defense very quickly and scored two consecutive goals in the first.
When the second period began, Ponoka boys seemed intent on getting on the scoreboard with waves of attacks on the Lightning net coming one after another, but it was the hosts again finding the first score in this period making it 3-0. But it didn’t make difference for the Ponoka boys; half a minute later, Kwyn Hiebert scored the first goal to be followed only six seconds later by Nate Higgins, making it 3-2.
However, Lightning, also desperately in need of a win on home ice, scored once more before the end of the second.
The third period was almost completely played in the Stampeders’ half of the rink, but a heroic defensive effort, including Eli Falls’ total of 42 saves in the game, his season high, proved impenetrable for the Lightning in the third period and the game ended 4-2 for the hosts.
Stampeders play Red Deer Vipers today, Wednesday, Jan 21 at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex at 7:45 p.m.