Maybe it’s the NHL lockout bringing fans to watch Ponoka’s Junior B Stampeders play or maybe they are seeing something different from the team this year.
Head coach Nick Jones was reluctant to talk about his coaching methods but one thing is for sure, “I feel that we picked the right team.”
Assistant coach Dave Parent and Jones work closely with their players to start to bring winning games to the table, and their work is making other coaches pay attention. Despite having lost six out of seven games, Jones is seeing a smaller margin in points during games. A loss of 5-2 at their most recent game against the Three Hills Thrashers Oct. 13 has not dampened players’ spirits.
He feels they have stepped up their game in comparison to their preseason with large point margins. The challenge they face is staying the course for all three periods.
“We just need to play 60 minutes of hockey, not 40,” he explained. “The battle we’re dealing with is, one quick goal is not the end.”
Jones has set some goals for the Stampeders; the lowest they want to be is 500 and the highest is to take provincials. He feels they have a solid chance. “There is not one team we played this year that is better than us.”
The coach praised his players for stepping up their game and putting in extra effort to get the job done.
Even though the start of the preseason camp had only 12 players attend, the Stampeders board gave Jones a chance to develop the team. “They gave me a lot of leeway.”
“Our core group has been excellent and they’re still around. That’s what we’re building off of,” explained the coach.
The season is in full swing and already Jones has seen posts on Twitter concerning the Stampeders and how they have changed. It is something both the players and coaches were glad to see, said Jones.
He does however want to work out some of the kinks.
“This is a different team. Anyone who underestimates us will get burned,” stated Jones.
He also credits the team’s new manager, Willie Jones.
“Willie goes to bat for the boys and goes to bat for the coaches,” he stated.
Jones said there has been a learning curve in his new role as he has not managed a junior B hockey team but feels his experience with Ponoka Minor Hockey is a skill he can draw from. His goal is to get to know the players and coaches as much as possible and keep operations running smoothly behind the scenes.
The next home game is Oct. 20 against the Mountainview Colts at 8 p.m.