After not being able to advance toward a provincial title, the Ponoka midget Stampeders are within grasp of a league championship.
The team cruised into the Northern Alberta Interlock tier 3 final series after posting a pair of convincing victories over Redwater on the weekend.
Games began on home ice March 9 for the Stampeders with a 10-5 win to kick-off the two-game, total goal semi-final series in a contest that was initially a back and forth battle.
Redwater opened up the scoring with a powerplay marker near the halfway mark of the first, but Ponoka’s Luke Bonnett tied it about two minutes later and that was followed by Ashton Bandet scoring slightly more than a minute later. However, the lead didn’t last as the visitors would notch another one about a minute after that.
The middle stanza was just as crazy with Ponoka scoring six times including a pair from Ethan Little and Jared Bussiere — one of his coming while shorthanded — along with powerplay goals from Jake Simanton and Emett Norn to hand the home side an 8-4 lead heading to the final frame.
Redwater, who looked to be struggling midway through the second, ran completely out of steam in the third as Ponoka’s Zachary Rausch scored just 14 seconds in. Simanton added another powerplay marker later to close out the win.
Game two in Redwater March 10 was a lot closer, but Ponoka let the reins out in the end and the result was a 6-4 win for the Stampeders.
Bussiere had the only goal in the first while Redwater poured it on in the second — spurred by a bit of Ponoka penalty trouble.
Redwater scored twice on the powerplay, then added two other goals to push ahead in the game and cut Ponoka’s lead in the series.
However, they also gave up a shorthanded effort — giving Bussiere his second of the game — but that would be as close as Redwater would get. Bussiere would get two more while Bonnett would add a pair to put the series away in the third.
Ponoka will now face Edson in the championship series that will be played this week, though the exact dates were not available at press time.
Just one other Ponoka club is on the ice, as the bantam Stampeders remain in the hunt for a tier 3 consolation crown. The team, which will play in the ‘D’ provincials in Three Hills this weekend, advanced to the tier 3 consolation semi-final against Leduc after defeating New Sarepta.