By Dale Cory
They scored early. They scored often.
The Ponoka Stampeders jumped into a 4-0 lead by the end of the first period on the strength of two power play goals, and cruised to an 11-1 victory over the Rimbey Rock in Heritage Junior Hockey League exhibition action Sept. 4 at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.
“The boys in the lineup showed well. I think we did okay,” said Stampeders head coach Randy Rook after seeing his troops for the first time in preseason competition. “The young guys played very well. But I would like to see a bit more desperation on Wednesday against Blackfalds. We danced around the net a lot without scoring. You have to bury the puck when you get the opportunity.”
Dylan Lightning took a great feed from Jared Kambeitz to beat Rimbey netminder Cody Nicolay just 6:06 into the game. After that, the Stampeders scored at will, blasting 78 shots at Nicolay, who made 67 saves on the night.
Cody Hagg and Tyler Poskus scored first period goals with the man advantage. Hagg finished the evening with three goals, while Poskus scored twice, and added one assist.
“Jared Kambeitz from Red Deer was one of the best players on the ice,” stressed Rook. “And Tyler Poskus, a defenceman from Red Deer, showed a lot of speed. He has great vision, and his shot is right there. Poskus is only 175 pounds, but plays like he’s 200 pounds. I firmly believe he’s going to be playing a higher level of junior hockey next year, and I’ll give him every opportunity to develop. He’s going to be a wonder kid.”
Josh Leffley also had a big game for Ponoka, recording four assists.
The Stampeders were up 6-0 after 40 minutes, and had an 8-0 lead and the man advantage midway through the third period when Kirby Nelson slapped the puck away from in front of Rimbey’s goal and watched as it took a strange bounce past Ponoka goaltender Devin Elst and into the net for the Rock’s lone goal on the night.
“What I really liked seeing is that this team is coming together as one,” said Rook. “After that fluke goal, all five players on the ice went over to the goalie to reassure him. It was nice to see that. The guys were razzing him in the dressing room after the game. But was all in fun. That’s huge for team camaraderie.
“It’s a totally different atmosphere in the room this year.”
Bryan Zigmut started in net for Ponoka, and made eight saves.
Garret Montour, whom Rook expects to be the Stamps’ No. 1 netminder, is still at North Battleford’s junior A camp.
Rimbey dressed just 14 players for the game, and the Stampeders simply wore out the Rock, who lost 19-3 to Blackfalds the previous night.
Ponoka still has three players at junior A camps who could come back, and three others at midget AAA camps. Rook is adamant all three will be back if they don’t make the grade.
“We’ll have a good idea where we stand in the next two weeks,” says Rook. “If I get three, or four, or five of those players into the lineup, I feel we’ll be a very good team. They will bolster our offence quite a bit.”
The longtime rivals will meet for the first time in the regular season Nov. 21 in Ponoka.
Next up for the Stamps… Ponoka continues exhibition action Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 7:45 p.m. vs. Blackfalds. The Stampeders will also host the Stettler Lightning Saturday, Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. at Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex, before hitting the road for exhibition games in Blackfalds Sept. 24 and Stettler Sept. 25.