CHARLES TWEED/Ponoka News
When Jared Kambeitz and Tyler Poskus were cut from triple A tryouts in Red Deer, the last place they expected to end up was playing hockey for the Ponoka Stampeders in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League.
It might have been the best hockey decision the two have made.
Poskus and Kambeitz raked in the accolades and hardware at the annual Stampeders Awards night held on March 2.
The two, who are best buddies and grew up playing hockey together in Red Deer, went punch for punch with each other leading up to the Most Valuable Player trophy.
Poskus won the Ryan Kinley Memorial Scholarship.
Kambeitz won the top scorer award.
Poskus then took home the top defenseman trophy.
Kambeitz countered with rookie of the year.
All the awards led up to the MVP presentation, which was determined by a player vote.
When the ballots were finally counted it was no surprise who won.
Poskus and Kambeitz received exactly the same number of votes from their peers meaning they would share the award.
“I was shocked. I worked hard all year but I didn’t think I would get it,” said Kambeitz. “It’s good winning it with Pooey (Poskus) because we have played hockey the last four years together and we’re good friends. It was nice to share it with him.”
“It’s great, I was surprised and really happy to win the award,” said Poskus.
Both made huge strides as players this year, something they attributed to good coaching.
“I was skeptical at first coming to Ponoka, but I knew it was the right choice all year based on how Randy was. I probably wouldn’t be where I am without him,” said Kambeitz.
Their teammates weren’t the only ones to notice the pair’s progression and leadership on the ice.
After being recalled by the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) a couple of times throughout the regular season, Kambeitz officially signed a card with the team, all but assuring that he’ll play in the province’s top junior league next year.
Poskus has received a number of letters from AJHL clubs and displayed the hardships of camp on his face at the awards. Competing at Sherwood Park’s camp over the weekend Poskus had a couple of shiners — a testament to the gritty defenseman’s style and no quit approach. The likelihood he sticks with one of the teams interested in him is probable, as long as he finds a fit, most likely with a team in rebuild mode.
Other players to receive awards were goaltender Bryan Zygmunt, who won the Shore Award for determination and hard work; Brandon Tebb was named the best defensive forward, Billy Nashbrouwer was named affiliate player of the year after posting two goals and eight assists for the Red Deer Elks in 22 games in the South Central Alberta Hockey double A midget League; and Bob Goodship won the Coach’s Award.
Scott Bowkett was presented with his jersey after he played his last game with the Stampeders. He is the only graduating Stamp and battled injuries throughout his final campaign, playing in the playoffs on a broken foot.
With the questions of who won which award behind the Stamps, the attention focused on whether head coach Randy Rook would be back for his third season behind the bench.
“I don’t know, mid-April I’m going to make my mind up. I want to make sure I make the right decision. It’s leaning towards coming back right now,” said Rook. “I feel like I have some unfinished business here and that is a big drawing factor.”
Part of that draw is the fact the Stamps are graduating only one player from their roster this season, which should be mean fans will see a competitive product on the ice.
“We’re going to have a really good core. We’re going to have a good team next year and that makes it a lot tougher. We will be more of a veteran team next year and that could bode well in this league. I’m not pushing to make the playoffs next year if I come back, I’m pushing to win that northern division,” said Rook.
The most emotional part of the evening came when Ken and Donna Kinley presented the Ryan Kinley Memorial Scholarship to Poskus.
Mrs. Kinley started by giving some of the history of the award.
“It’s in memory of our son Ryan,” said Mrs. Kinley in a shaky voice as her eyes began to tear up. “He died in 2006 and is a brother to Brent and Kyle and he loved hockey.”
Mr. Kinley was sure Ryan would still be helping out if he hadn’t died suddenly at the age of 29.
“He just loved the game of hockey. He used to watch Ryan play, and he would help out when he could but he worked in the oilfield so it was tough to commit. I’m sure if he was still alive he would be helping coach because that’s how much he loved the game,” said Mr. Kinley.