Ponoka’s Junior Heritage hockey team lost another game last weekend, but this one should look and be carried proudly like a heard-earned medal in a battle that set new standards for the local boys.
In their game against the Junior Heritage League’s top team, Okotoks Bisons, Stampeders lost 3-2 in overtime in a game that they could have won.
The fact that the first period was scoreless was enough to show that something was different in Ponoka’s game on Saturday, Dec. 14.
The defence was working hard to close loopholes by quickly consolidating in areas where the Bisons were preparing to set their traps and goaltending was superb.
Visiting Bisons could not score their first point until the 7th minute of the second period.
When they did take the 1-0 lead, this whipped up the local boys instead of discouraging them, and Tye Munro equalized seven minutes later. Yet another seven minutes later, just half a minute from the end of the second period, Kwyn Hiebert scored the second goal giving the lead to Stampeders: 2-1.
The third period began with the relentless pressure by visiting Bisons on the Stampeders net with the goalie Brody Thomas stopping shot after shot after shot coming from the opponents.
But the almost heroic defensive effort could not stop the equalizer in the 13th minute of the third period: 2-2.
The score by the opponents was followed by a nightmarish decision by the referees: When Chandler Knibb was sidelined with a penalty for roughness, the referees punished the Ponoka bench with an additional two-minute penalty for objecting to the decision.
That meant the Stampeders were left on the ice with just three players and a goalie against the league’s highest scoring team.
Yet, the local boys overcame that hurdle as well, forcing the game to go to overtime. In the five-minute additional play-time, Stampeders resisted to the onslaught unleashed by the opponents for three and a half minute but could not stop the last goal by the Bisons.
Stampeders head coach Mark Dobler sounded quite confident after the game: “It was the best game of the year, “he said, adding that their three key players were missing from the roster over the weekend.
“It was all about work ethic and sticking to the game plan,” Dobler said.
“The biggest thing is that we stayed with our game plan for 60 minutes. We worked hard and we had great goaltending and the rest took care of itself.”
“We also did a great job in killing penalties,” he added.
“Everybody worked hard and everybody had a good game.”
Dobler added it was still not too late to start winning games in the league.
Stampeders next play against Three Hills Thrashers on home ice on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 8 p.m.