After 24 games and only one win, the chances of competing in the playoffs are slim for the Ponoka Junior B Stampeders hockey team.
There has also been a recent change in the coaching staff, former head coach Nick Jones stepped down to be an assistant coach and offered the position to his assistant, Dave Parent.
“He talked to me and thought I was more suitable for the job, I think that’s kind of what he said,” explained Parent.
The team’s Dec. 12 game against Stettler Lightning ended the with a 6-2 loss with their first goal scored in the first period. For Parent, the goal is to keep his players committed to all three periods. “It’s a challenge trying to get them to play 60 minutes of hockey. I do as much as I can, say as much as I can to get them fired up in the dressing room.”
“We played 40 minutes and unfortunately 40 minutes isn’t enough to win a hockey game,” he stated.
He feels the Stampeders outplayed their opponents in the first period but slowed in the second, which led to several goals and an uphill climb to catch up in the third. “Things just didn’t go our way.”
With the hopes of competing in the playoffs becoming slimmer, Parent tries to remind his players to dedicate their energies to control the puck throughout their games. There are times he feels frustrated with their results when considering the quality of his players, said Parent.
To help with his new role, Parent has hired on two other assistant coaches; Kyle Kinley, from Ponoka and Andrew Walker, from Red Deer. “I’m a rookie as a head coach and I’m trying to get as much help as I can and as much opinion and point of view as I can…It’s been great having a couple extra sets of eyes out there.”
To compete in the playoffs means the Stampeders have to win at least 10 of their next 17 games.
“It’s not out of the question but it’s just a matter of these guys wanting to play 60 minutes,” he said.
It also depends on how other teams in the Stampeders’ division perform. Stettler Lighning is the next highest team in the division with eight wins and 15 losses and the Mountainview Colts close in front with eight wins, 15 losses and two ties.
“These are key games we gotta win and it makes it hard when we take a period off and they score a couple. Then instead of going one down in the third, we’re going down three or four into the third,” explained the coach.
If the team can perform well in all three periods they can beat other teams and have stronger games, explained Parent. “Some of the holes we dig for ourselves, they’re a lot harder to get out of than people think.”
He credits the fans for their support despite the Stampeders’ performance this season. Parent recalls a few games this season where a large number of people were in the stands rooting for the team to win. “It’s gotta be frustrating for them.”
One of the ways Parent works with his team is to focus on defense. He wants to see fewer shots on their goal and more on the other team’s. Coaches are not the only ones frustrated with their results; players feel the same when they cannot produce goals.
“I keep telling them to stay positive, good things will happen…keep working and good things will come,” he explained.
The team practices twice a week with dry land training every Tuesday and the coaching staff talks every day to plan practices and plays. The Stampeders’ next home game is Dec. 19 at 7:45 p.m. against the Blackfalds Wranglers, who lead the division with 16 wins.