A club filled with youths found out the hard way that junior hockey isn’t an easy leap to make.
The Ponoka Stampeders junior B squad took one on the chin in their season and home opener Sept. 15, blanked 10-0 by the Okotoks Bisons at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Centre.
For the Stamps, this season is somewhat of a transition with half the team consisting of new players — many of whom are experiencing the junior level of play for the first time. It also didn’t help that the hometown squad played with a short bench, limited to just three lines.
And despite the lopsided result, Stamps second year head coach Matt Williams saw several bright spots among the debris left behind by Okotoks.
“There are some pretty wide eyes on our team right now. We just weren’t ready and we have to go through those growing pains. We have guys used to playing at a certain level and this is about 10 times above what they’re used to,” he said.
“It is an adjustment period and as a coach, am I disappointed with the result. I’d be lying if I wasn’t. But, I saw some spurts here and there, where we showed we can compete and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
Williams added, that with how new much of the team is, and how little practice the team has had, it wasn’t too surprising that there were some hiccups when it came to systems play.
“Give us a couple of weeks and people will see a different team out on the ice,” he noted.
“Overall, we are happy with this group. We have a lot to work through, and yes, we probably need a couple more pieces. But, you have to give the young guys credit.”
And the roster may yet change some more, with Williams explaining there are a few players they are looking at potentially adding — some at junior A camps and some that are dealing with some injuries.
“We didn’t see our whole team out there, that’s what’s disappointing,” he said.
“What we potentially have, I think we are going to be that team that come later on, no one is going to want to play us.”
First year goaltenders Derian Gaumond, 18 from Rocky Mountain House, and 19 year-old Brandon Clark from Hudson Hope, B.C., both saw action. Clark, who played eight games with the junior B Sicamous Eagles last season, turned aside 27 of the 34 shots he faced over 41 minutes of play, while Gaumond — who played midget A at home last season — had 19 minutes of action, allowing three goals on 15 shots.
The rest of the Stamps combined for just six minutes in minor penalties, although the bench got even shorter late in the second period when Shae Reynolds was hit with two 10-minute misconducts and a game misconduct in an incident where a Bison player was tossed for a check to the head on a Stampeder player.
Another statistic that didn’t go their way, the Stamps went zero for five on the powerplay that included the five minute major man advantage for the check to the head.
Buckle up: Another big test for the young Stampeders comes this weekend (Sept. 22) when they play host to the powerhouse Medicine Hat Cubs. Puck drop at the Ponoka Cultural and Recreation Complex is set for 8:30 p.m. Ponoka will then get another week of rest and practice before they hit the ice Oct. 5 in Didsbury to face Mountainview.