Assistant captain Hailey Huchkowski celebrates with her teammates after a score against their Red Deer opponents Feb. 6 in Ponoka.

Ponoka clubs struggle in provincial playoffs

Alberta Hockey provincials might be a long shot, the regular season coming to a close this weekend

At least one minor hockey club from Ponoka will be playing in a provincial championship, though that number may grow if things go well this week.

The Ponoka bantam Stampeders have already earned a berth in their ‘D’ category tournament — March 14 to 17 in Three Hills — by being the only team from the zone competing at that level.

As for a second team advancing, there is a possibility for the Lacoka midget Warriors as they face off against Rocky Mountain House in the zone semi-final. Game one went Feb. 11 in Rocky (result unavailable at press time) with Game two slated for Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. in Ponoka. The winner of this series will automatically be in the provincial championship as Leduc, who got a bye into the zone final, is the host team for the event.

There remains one other club vying for a provincial spot, the Lacoka peewee Warriors, although the team is in a tight spot. The girls suffered a 3-2 loss Feb. 5 on home ice and will have to win by a pair in the rematch in Rocky Mountain House on Feb. 14 to advance to the zone final.

Meanwhile, the Lacoka bantam team as well as the atom and midget Stampeders have all been knocked out of contention.

The atoms lost in Caroline 6-3 on Feb. 3 then fell 13-4 on home ice Feb. 8, while the midgets fell 7-4 in Thorsby Feb. 9 and lost 2-1 in the return game Feb. 11 in Ponoka. The Lacoka bantam Warriors were dispatched 4-1 on Jan. 24 in Red Deer before earning a bit of redemption with a 3-3 draw on home ice Feb. 6.

Noticeably absent in this discussion is the Ponoka peewee Stampeders and that’s because of a change made this season by Hockey Alberta.

The provincial governing body introduced a pilot project in the peewee category as part of its attempt to revamp and standardize the tiering system across Alberta. With that came a departure from zone playoffs to qualify for provincials and hosting a championship for tiers one to four only.

Hockey Alberta senior communications manager Brad Lyons explained that the champion of each of the six leagues around the province will qualify for the provincial tournament along with a host team and a wildcard.

Season closing quickly

On the league front, the regular season is nearing its end with just one weekend of play left.

The Vantage Physiotherapy atom squad concluded its regular season, earning a 5-2 victory at home over Calmar on Feb. 9 then netting a 7-1 win in Leduc on Feb. 10.

As for the McDonalds atom club, they fell at home 5-3 Feb. 9 to Drayton Valley and will finish the regular schedule off Feb. 16 (11:15 a.m.) at home to Daysland.

The peewee Stampeders lost at home 12-9 to Sturgeon on Feb. 10 and will conclude things Feb. 17 (10 a.m.) when they host Camrose. Meanwhile, the Lacoka peewee squad will end its regular season with a pair of home games, Feb. 15 (6:30 p.m.) in Ponoka versus Camrose and Feb. 17 (3 p.m.) in Lacombe against Innisfail.

It was a tough week for the bantam Stampeders, falling 7-4 in Leduc Feb. 6 then losing both games at home 5-1 to Jasper Feb. 7 and 11-4 on Feb. 9 to Wabasca. That said, the team rebounded to win 5-2 in Leduc Feb. 10 and hopes to finish off on a good note with a pair of home games, Feb. 15 (8:45 p.m.) against New Sarepta and Feb. 16 (5:45 p.m.) versus Hinton.

The midget Stampeders suffered a pair of losses, 7-4 on the road to the CR Knights Feb. 6 and at home Feb. 8 with a score of 5-1 to New Sarepta. The club is still on top of its division and has three games left, one which is at home Feb. 17 (noon) against Sturgeon.

Meanwhile, the Lacoka midget Warriors fell to Stettler 4-2 on Feb. 7 and defeated Maskwacis twice — 2-1 at home Feb. 9 and 6-5 in Maskwacis the next day. The team will finish off the regular season at home to Rocky Mountain House Feb. 16 (3:30 p.m.).

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Lacoka bantam player Chloe Wilton keeps a close eye on the puck action during their second provincial playdowns game against Red Deer. A tie game wasn’t enough for the team to make it past.

Lacoka bantam goalie Emma O’Brien keeps her eyes on the action.

A hop and skip and this puck found its way up the hockey stick as player Chloe Wilton tries to keep control of it.

Lacoka bantam goalie Emma O’Brien and player Cali Gulka keep a close eye on the puck Feb. 6 during a provincial playdown game against Red Deer. The team tied but it was not enough to make it to the next round. Photos by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

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