It was a second straight two-and-out playoff exit for the Ponoka Stampeders.
The Stampeders were bounced in the best-of-three first round series in two straight games, falling to Red Deer for the second season in a row, after having missed the playoffs for the previous 10 years.
Red Deer blanked the Stamps 5-0 to open in the series in Red Deer on Feb. 8. The Vipers then dispatched the Stampeders in Game 2 on Feb. 10 in a contest held at the Four Nations Arena in Maskwacis, after the local club wasn’t able to obtain a suitable ice time in Ponoka as the series needed to be completed by last Sunday.
In the series opener, Ponoka seemed to be completely overwhelmed as Red Deer doubled up the Stamps on the shot clock in each period. Ponoka managed just 17 shots overall — six in the first, seven in the second and only four in the final frame — while the Vipers racked up period totals of 13, 18 and 12 respectively for 43 shots overall.
The Stamps, who led the league with 1,232 penalty minutes this season, continued that parade to the sin bin by handing Red Deer eight powerplay opportunities, of which the Vipers capitalizing on three of them. Ponoka failed to score on its six powerplay chances.
Game two was a slightly different story, though with the same outcome.
The Stamps came out of the gate strong, but fell prey to penalties once again with Red Deer scoring twice with the man advantage in the first ten minutes then got two more for a 4-0 lead after one period. Ponoka’s Dakota Sullivan gave the home team some life, scoring just 22 seconds into the middle stanza.
That breath was shortlived, as the Vipers would get another powerplay goal later in the frame. That goal, along with Ponoka failing to score on a five-minute powerplay late in the second essentially salted the game and series away for Red Deer. To that point, Ponoka and Red Deer were nearly even on the shot clock, at 29-27 in the Stamps’ favour.
However, the Stamps were lacklustre for much of the third, mustering just five shots the rest of the way to Red Deer’s 15 in the period.
Hoof prints: Not helping the Stamps in the post-season were James Lea, Kacey Straub and Justin McKenzie, all of whom were serving suspensions that would have extended into the second round if the team had advanced. All three were suspended as a result of an altercation in the final minute of a game in Banff on Jan. 28. On the play, McKenzie received a match penalty and was suspended five games, while Straub got four games for instigating a fight and Lea was handed three games after being assessed a gross misconduct.