Short and not so sweet.
That’s the perfect description of the first playoff appearance in more than 10 years for the Ponoka Stampeders.
The club were blanked 7-0 by Red Deer in the Game 1 of the best of three first round Heritage Junior league series on Tuesday, Feb. 9. The two teams were due to play Game 2 the next night, but it got pushed to Thursday, Feb. 11 after a water main broke at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.
However, that delay didn’t help the Stampeders at all as they got scored on three times in the first four and a half minutes of the second period and pretty much folded the tents and packed their bags in what turned out to be a 10-1 drubbing and a quick bounce from the playoffs.
Jesse Fischer has the lone goal of the series for the Stampeders, ending Red Deer’s shutout streak with just over three minutes remaining in the game.
“We played a great first period and held them off the scoreboard, but came out for the second and sat back too much,” said head coach Tyler Fiveland following the series defeat.
“We won the last game of the regular season and thought we would get some momentum.”
With their run done, Fiveland has turned to what next season holds for the club.
“Overall, I’m happy with how far the guys have come. They are still learning to win and we know where we have to make improvement,” he said.
“I even know where what I need to work on.”
Three of the clubs key players this season will be gone for next season, valuable experience Fiveland knows will be hard to replace. That means several of the younger players are going to have to step up.
“We should have lot of returning players, who will be older and hopefully stronger,” he said.
“Most of our guys will be 19 and it’s that size and experience where we really need to improve aside from learning how to win and to never give up. This season, if we got off to a good start we were fine, but it was when we started to get down we couldn’t come back. It’s that mental toughness part of the game we also have to work on.”
It’s that kind of culture change Fiveland hopes to instill next season and using this year’s playoffs will go some ways to achieve that.
“That’s also going to help up, hopefully, make Ponoka a place guys want to come and play with our program,” he added.