Stampeders still have eye on playoff spot

By ADAM JACKSON

More than halfway through the season, the Ponoka Stampeders are under .500, but coach Randy Rook is not panicking.

“We’re exactly where we want to be. It’s like building a house, you have to start with the foundation.”

The Stampeders are 7-12-3, with 22 games played and 14 left in the season. This record puts them fourth in the North Division, but only two points out of third place, currently occupied by the Stettler Lightning.

The Stampeders have been playing good hockey, according to Rook, but they need to start playing with more consistency and they need to start burying chances when they get them. Rook cited three times where the Stampeders had the lead, but couldn’t hold on to win the games.

The head coach also said that fan support has been a bit of an issue this year. The Stampeders are seeing the same faces every game and they want to see more.

“We’ve got a great, exciting product and it’s time to see some support from Ponoka,” said Rook.

Support from town hall was also cited as a concern.

“We need some support from town hall. The team is doing everything we can, but we need support.”

Rook would like to see some of the town officials at the games — he thinks it will help draw more fans. When the team draws more fans, it will boost their income and when the team has more money at its disposal, they will be able to attract more skilled players and create a better hockey team.

Looking forward to the last 14 games of the season, Rook says that for his team to improve and to be contenders for the playoffs, they must finish on their scoring opportunities. During the next few practices, they will work on power plays and faceoffs.

“Our faceoff percentage is pathetic — if you win the draw and get possession of the puck right away, that gives you a huge advantage,” said Rook.

For the rest of the season, Rook stresses that the team needs more support from fans.

“The team is doing everything we can right now. We’re winning, but there’s only so much we can do.”

The Stampeders’ next home game is on Jan. 5 against Red Deer. The last time the two teams met, on Dec. 13, the Stampeders fell 7-3.