The new year has meant somewhat of a new start for the Ponoka Stampeders.
After a pair of losses on the road after getting back from the holiday break, the Stamps were able to muster up an 8-6 home ice victory over Strathmore Jan. 12.
Bailey Nesbitt scored once in each frame for a hat trick. That included the opening goal just nine seconds into the contest along with a powerplay goal and the game winner in the third.
Potts got his second of the night with just over two minutes left in the game, while the other goals on the night came from Joshua Robinson, Russell Hassler and Braden Kiessens.
For head coach Mike Nesbitt, the game was an example of what the club can do when they have a full bench.
“It was the first time in a long while where we have had a full line up on the ice,” he said.
“You run a powerplay and a penalty kill, run a team properly. Strathmore is a good offensive team, but they had a short bench and had a late night in their overtime win in Rocky. So, we knew if we could stay close that we should be able to win the third period. Our guys got a bit of confidence out of this win and hopefully we can keep that rolling the rest of the season.”
Another key was the Stampeders acquiring Tyrees Goodrunning from Rocky Mountain House in a player swap that saw Brandt Seland join the Rams.
“It wasn’t a trade, but neither player wanted to play where they were, so we got it worked out,” Nesbitt added.
“Tyrees is another leader for our team and his positive reinforcement in the room really helps us out. Things are looking good for us.
For the head coach, it really is crunch time if this squad wants to compete in the playoffs, as Ponoka sits last in the North Division with 16 points.
That being said, the team is only two points back from Rocky Mountain House and four behind Stettler, both of whom hold down the final two playoff spots and the only teams Ponoka can catch with nine games remaining.
“We have got to win most of our games now in order to solidify that playoff spot,” Nesbitt said.
“The team knows what they need to. You can’t win with a short bench all the time, so the guys need to continue to buy in and commit.”
Hoof prints: After a pair of tough losses after the holidays — the Stamps were blanked 7-0 in Cochrane on Jan. 4 before falling 5-2 in Airdrie on Jan. 10 — the club looks to continue creeping up the standings as they close out this three-game homestand. Tonight (Jan. 15) they host Stettler at 7:30 p.m. then are home to Coaldale on Jan. 19 (3 p.m. puck drop). Also of note, three players represented the Stamps at the annual all-star and prospects games held Jan. 5 in Medicine Hat. Kodan Smallboy and Josh Robinson played in the prospects match while Bailey Nesbitt and Robinson were in the all-star classic. Two other Stamps were also selected — Devin Anderson and Cree Auger — but Anderson is out with an injury suffered Jan. 4 and Auger couldn’t play due to illness.