Ponoka’s Junior Heritage Hockey League representatives narrowly lost another chance to snap their losing streak at a home game last Wednesday, Dec 10, when they could not prevent two scores from the visiting Stettler Lightning in the last two minutes of their game at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Centre.
The first half of the first period of the game looked like flat beer, without much taste and excitement with none of the sides able to execute any plays to create serious scoring chances. Things changed in the 11th minute, however, when two Stampeders were simultaneously sent to the penalty box, offering an opportunity to the visiting side that they could not fail to capitalize on. And they didn’t; just into the second minute of the power play, Stettler scored from close range taking the lead. Five minutes later, when the Stampeders’ goalie Zane Steeves left his position to control the puck coming from a long shot, the puck somehow found its way just to the tip of the stick of Lightning forward in the middle of the rink and his unassisted long range shot sent the puck to the empty net: 2-0, the final score of the first period.
Stampeders were in no mood to give up on their chance to win at home and they made their point through Chandler Knibb, who scored his first goal of the game in the third minute of the second period. The goal fired up Ponoka boys and they started to attack with greater enthusiasm at the Lightning net, but could not penetrate the defensive setup of the visitors. The Lightning, for their part made a big effort not to lose the control of the rink, maintaining their posture even when they were short-handed and keeping the Ponoka net under pressure. Their determination paid off and the visitors scored once again two minutes from the end of the second period, going into the third with their two-point cushion intact: 3-1.
The stakes were suddenly raised, though, when Stampeders scored with Dawson Kress at the 14th second of the third period, which turned into a scoring duel from that point on, transforming the game to a nail-biter. Ponoka boys kept attacking the Lightning net but The Stettler defense, and an indomitable goalie, did not allow them to score for another 10 minutes. In the meantime, Lightning scored another in 11th minute increasing their lead back to two points: 4-2. It was two minutes after that goal that Chandler Knibb scored his second reducing to gap to one point, to be followed four minutes later by Tyson Crampain to bring parity to the scoreboard:4-4. The remaining minutes were truly a joy to watch as both sides played their hearts out to be able to finish the game with a win. It was, however, the visitors that came out victorious: In the 19th minute, Stettler scored another one taking the lead again and when, in the final seconds, the Stampeders bench took the goalie off the ice to beef up the offense, another long shot by the Lightning offense sent the puck to the empty net sealing the score at 6-4.
Stampeders traveled to Three Hills later in the week and lost to Thrashers 8-2 on Saturday, Dec. 13 with Austin Ancion and Nate Higgins scoring for the Ponoka boys. One interesting note on the game was that five of the eight goals of the Thrashers were unassisted.
Ponoka Stampeders were playing Stettler Lightning again as Ponoka News went to print on Tuesday, Dec. 16. Next, they are scheduled to play Blackfalds in an away game on Sunday, Dec. 21.