Ponoka’s Junior B Stampeders won their first game in over a year when they defeated Three Hills Thrashers 4-2 in an aggressively played exhibition match on Sunday, Sept. 7.
“It’s nice to finally put a W (win) on the board,” said head coach Mark Dobler.
Dobler says the boys played hard as they always do. “I thought we played pretty well.”
“We’ve got a lot of good young hockey players . . . that look very promising,” he added.
With 12 to 13 veterans returning, Dobler says there are six players from last year who will not be part of the team this season some of them having aged out while others choosing another venue to fill their time.
The Stampeders held a training camp Sept. 5 and 6 and some dryland training over the summer, but Dobler says most of the players trained on their own time. “We had a lot of guys show up to camp very fit. It’s pretty exciting.”
Dobler’s strategy has always been to work hard during games, but this year’s tactics may have to change for the smaller players. “This year will be a little different because we have a lot of smaller, faster, skilled players,” he said.
“A lot of them are like little pit bulls, they just go, go, go,” he added.
Over the summer, a lot of work went into recruiting players for the team and boys from as far as Rocky Mountain House made the drive to test their skills.
Dobler has already made approximately eight to nine cuts and believes he has four or five to go to get ready for the regular season.
The team has exhibition games Sept. 13 at 3:30 p.m. against Wetaskiwin and Sept. 17 at 7:45 p.m. against Blackfalds.
Stampeders’ first regular season game is Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. against Three Hills and their first home game is Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. against Blackfalds.
During the home game, the team will also honour fallen teammate Damian Pannenbecker, who died in a vehicle accident near Olds in January. “That’ll be banner night,” said Dobler.