With less than three weeks left in the regular season, the Ponoka Stampeders are starting to move in the right direction.
The Stamps posted three wins in three days over the weekend, including a pair against teams with better records.
Ponoka kicked off the weekend with a 6-1 win in Three Hills Friday, then followed up with two home wins — a 4-3 shootout victory over Blackfalds on Saturday and a 7-5 win on Sunday over Medicine Hat.
In Three Hills, the Stampeders dominated in every facet of the game. Kieran Bulloch notched the rare natural hat trick with the other three goals coming from Taite Opdendries, Jacob Sayler and Pierce Sorensen, who got a late powerplay goal. The Stamps trashed the Thrashers on the shot clock too, by a count of 45-15, which included 21 shots in the middle frame.
Saturday saw a thrilling game where Ponoka had numerous opportunities to defeat Blackfalds in regulation. In the second period alone, the Stamps failed to convert on several odd-man rushes and missed a pair of chances in close with the net virtually empty.
Even then, it took a goal midway through the third to tie it up and then take the extra point in the shootout, where Stamps’ netminder Taylor McLaughlin stopped Blackfalds second shooter followed by Nate Higgins potting a third straight shootout goal for the victory.
The contest on Sunday versus Medicine Hat went back and forth right to the end, despite the Stamps outshooting the visitors 46-32.
Kacey Straub tied the game for Ponoka with three minutes to go in the first. The locals took the lead on a goal by Walker Guthrie just seven seconds into the second, then increased the lead 33 seconds later on a shot by Dakota Sullivan.
Nate Higgins scored late in the second to maintain the two-goal lead, but would give up a powerplay marker with just over a minute remaining to enter the intermission up 4-3. Guthrie would get his second of the game 51 seconds into the third to regain the two-goal advantage, but needed two late goals from Kayden Gatz — a powerplay marker with less than three minutes left and another with 15 seconds remaining — to secure the victory.
However, even with the winning streak, the club’s record of nine wins, 17 losses and three overtime losses still leaves them in sixth place in the Heritage Junior Hockey League’s North Division — eight points back of the next closest team, Stettler.
Hoof prints — Ponoka will look to continue its gallop up the standings with the coming week featuring three of the club’s final seven remaining regular season games. They host Mountainview tonight (Wednesday) at 7:30 p.m. followed by another home date with Three Hills at the Culture and Recreation Complex on Saturday starting at 8:30 p.m. before heading to Blackfalds on Jan. 30.