The Blackfalds Wranglers had to wrestle hard to earn a win out of the Ponoka Stampeders last week.
Ponoka lost the Sept. 17 exhibition game 7-3, but it was only in the third period that Blackfalds was able to take advantage of some passing mistakes.
“We made three glaring mistakes by giving the puck away in our own zone that you can’t make,” stated head coach Mark Dobler.
He feels this was a different performance than their exhibition game against Blackfalds Sunday, Sept. 14 where Ponoka lost 11-0. Dobler said players on Wednesday were fighting for the puck.
At the end of the first period the game was tied 2-2 but three consecutive penalties in the second tired out the Stampeders. Of those six minutes, two were played five against three. Dobler said players have to work hard to keep the puck from their net.
“Sticks are in the passing lane. Guys are working hard and we make sure we’re in the shot lane to block shots,” he explained.
Blackfalds is expected to be one of the top teams in the Junior B Hockey League this season and they didn’t let off the pressure but it was clear they were working hard to keep control of the puck.
Dobler was impressed with Stampeders’ goalie Zane Steeves’ performance. Steeves was able to make save after save, said Dobler and he said there was no need to take him out of the game.
“We made some bad defensive mistakes in our own zone that gave them some opportunities,” Dobler explained.
“They pushed the pace on us,” he added.
Fans can expect to see younger, faster skilled players working to win hockey games with Stampeders, explained Dobler. He feels fans will watch a different team compared to last year. The effort the Stampeders put in against Blackfalds is a good example, although they didn’t win, fans enjoyed a fun, fast-paced hockey game.
The Stampeders’ home opener is Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. when they face off against the Wranglers. They will honour their former teammate Damian Pannenbecker that night during a banner ceremony.