Stampeders’ home opener of the season ended with an 8-3 win for the visiting Blackfalds Wranglers, the second loss in as many days; and while the game showed some promise of hope for the later stages of the league, there also appeared to be quite some room for improvement.
Ponoka boys lost to Airdrie Thunder on the road on Friday, Sept. 26 with a score of 4-1, with the only point for Stampeders coming from Jacob Bottomley in the first period.
The next day, the home game started after a ceremony during which late Damian Pannenbecker’s already retired #17 jersey was permanently placed at the big ice rink’s flag mast next to the Canadian and Alberta flags. During the game, Stampeders players also put on jerseys with no 17 in memory of their teammate, who lost his life in a car crash last January.
After the first whistle, when Cody Lemon of the Stampeders scored the first goal of the game in just the third minute of the game, fans and the bench alike celebrated the lead coming so early, but the Wranglers took less than two minutes to respond.
After the first goal of the visitors, the control of the puck shifted mainly to the Blackfalds side, with Stampeders struggling to maintain possession, a factor which deprived them of any opportunity to execute game plans. The first period ended with the visitors scoring two more times before the buzzer.
In the second period, Stampeders continued to struggle in controlling the puck with skating, dribbling and passing mistakes allowing the Wranglers to quickly regain possession. Despite their inability to impose their pace to the visitors, Stampeders did find a goal in power play in the seventh minute through a shoveling shot by Tyson Crampain. But the biggest moment of the second period came when two Wranglers were sent to the penalty box within ten seconds of each other in the 14th minute of the game. Ponoka boys not only failed to capitalize on the opportunity but they picked a penalty themselves, giving away their advantage. The period ended 4-2 after the visitors scored another goal.
The third period was played almost entirely in the Stampeders’ half of the rink with the goalie Eli Falls saving shot after shot, but unable to prevent the Blackfalds side from scoring four more points in the last 20 minutes. It was only eight seconds from the end of regulation that Kwyn Hiebert of Stampeders found the back of the Wranglers’ net and sealed the score at 8-3.
Head coach Mark Dobler declined to comment on the game.
Stampeders next play two back-to-back away games, on Saturday, Oct. 4 against Coaldale and on Friday, Oct. 10 against High River before hosting Medicine Hat on Saturday, Oct. 11.