The Ponoka Stampeders booked a playoff spot back in December, though the club has hoped to improve its lot over the final stretch.
However, a 6-4 home loss to Blackfalds on Jan. 30 has run the team’s losing streak to nine games with just a pair of games left in the regular season.
Since posting a 3-2 win on the road versus Lomond Jan. 5, the Stamps have endured a pair of double digit losses to go along with being shut out twice and a recent Jan. 26 loss to Three Hills, who now have two wins on the season.
Things got off to a good start versus Blackfalds with Reid Jacobs scoring near the five minute mark of the opening frame.
Unfortunately, that’s when the gate slammed shut on Ponoka, as Blackfalds would notch four straight goals — two on the powerplay in the first along with a pair early in the second.
The Stamps clawed one back with an unassisted effort by Kieran Bullock with close to eight minutes gone in the middle stanza, only to see Blackfalds add another powerplay marker just past the midway point of the third.
Seth Eckert got one back for Ponoka later in the third and Devin Anderson’s goal with under a minute remaining, which provided some last second hope, but that was dashed by an empty netter from Blackfalds with 13 seconds left.
Ponoka was in Three Hills on Feb. 2, where they won 5-4, then on Feb. 9 (8:30 p.m.) at home to Coaldale as they look to turn the tide ahead of the playoffs.
For the third year in a row, the Stamps will hit the playoffs with a tough opponent in the opening round best-of-three series — this time it will be against the Mountainview Colts.
Ponoka has lost all four games they’ve played against the Colts this season, two of those coming in the past month. The Colts have also outscored the Stamps in those games by a count of 21-11.
However, Ponoka has shown they can keep up with the Colts — losing a close one back in December and taking them to overtime near the start of the season.
No dates have been set in any of the playoff matchups with the other North division first round series featuring Stettler versus Blackfalds, with Airdrie and Red Deer receiving a bye into the division semi-finals. The south division is a bit more complex, with Coaldale, Okotoks and Cochrane all fighting for the two opening round byes — as the three teams are separated by just four points with only a few games left.
While High River awaits which of the three doesn’t earn a bye, the other first round matchup will be Medicine Hat taking on Strathmore.