By CHARLES TWEED
The first game back after the holiday break is always a challenge for any hockey team — the Ponoka Stampeders were no exception.
On Jan. 5 the Stamps took on a Red Deer squad in top spot in the North Division. The Vipers were ready and took full advantage of a couple of first period power play goals en route to a 8-0 final —not the way Ponoka wanted to start 2011.
The Stampeders couldn’t dwell on the loss however, as they welcomed Stettler to town Jan. 8. With conditions outside miserable, the Stamps took pride in making it equally as miserable for the opposition Lightning inside the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Centre.
Coach Randy Rook stressed the importance of a good start and led with an energy line for the puck drop. It paid big dividends as the Stamps got a goal from Scott Bowkett just 35 seconds into the contest. From there, the Stampeders didn’t look back, getting another marker in the first from Brandon Regush, his eighth of the year, and some insurance from Gage Rosie in the third.
The only blemish for Stamps’ goalie Garret Montour came about halfway through the third on a Stettler power play, making the final 3-1.
Coach Rook credited the win to being physical, hard on the forecheck and he had some praise for his starting goaltender.
“He (Garret) may have been getting a bit tired before Christmas and needed a break. We went out and signed another goalie to give him some help and we need him to be our top guy on the ice. Against Stettler he was a standout in net no question,” said Rook.
The win means the Stamps are now just two points back of the third-place Lightning with two games in hand. That’s important because if the Stampeders can get into third it should mean a first round playoff matchup with Blackfalds instead of first-place Red Deer — something that isn’t lost on the coaching staff.
“I firmly believe we can take Blackfalds out with the guns we have,” said Rook.
The Stampeders’ next home game action is against the Strathmore Wheatland Kings on Sunday, Jan. 16 with puck drop at 2:30 pm.