The Ponoka Junior B Stampeders will need to win at least two of their next three games to keep the hope of making it to playoffs alive.
“We’re hanging on by our teeth,” said Stamps head coach Mike Nesbitt.
The Stamps had a recent victory, beating the Rocky Rams 6-5 on the road Jan. 31, with eight seconds left on the clock, which was a big morale boost for the team.
With the playoffs close enough to taste, the Stamps charged into their game against Northern Division leader Airdrie Techmation Thunder, putting up a good effort, but ultimately losing 6-5 on Feb. 1 at home.
The Stampeders are sitting in last place in the north with 18 points to Airdrie’s 58.
Play was very back-and-forth and every time the Stamps got ahead, the Thunder would “get one in,” said Nesbitt.
The Stamps were also playing with just two lines, but they were the top two lines, says Nesbitt.
“The boys really brought it … they really want it (playoffs).”
The first period was nearly a shutout, with even shots on both sides, (14 for Ponoka and 13 for Airdrie).
The Stamps drew first blood with less than five minutes to the buzzer. Stamps No. 28 Russel Hassler found the back of the Thunder’s net, assisted by No. 27 Bailey Nesbitt.
The Thunder clapped back a minute later, ending the first period on a 1-1 tie.
Ponoka got a goal early in the second, score by No. 15 Carson Bear from No. 10 Kieran Bulloch, but things slipped from there, with the Thunder taking the next three points to bring the game to a 4-2 lead for Airdrie.
With 30 seconds on the clock, Bulloch shortened the gap, scoring for Ponoka, ending the second stanza 4-3 for Airdrie.
Stamp No. 21 Joshua Robinson tied up the score nine minutes into the third, but the Thunder took the next two goals.
The Stamps had the final say, scoring again at 15:27, but weren’t able to put away another goal to tie up the game.
Stampeders goal No. 1 Geoffrey Drought saved 46 of 52 shots in 60 minutes in the net.
The Stamps’ next home game tonight (Feb. 5) against the Red Deer Vipers, is going to be a real challenge, says Nesbitt, as the Vipers currently sit second in the north. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
After the match with the Vipers, the Stamps will play Strathmore on the road Feb. 8 and Rocky again at home on Feb. 9, starting at 3 p.m.
“It’s easy to win when you have a big crowd cheering you on,” said Nesbitt, adding he hopes the town will come out and support the Stamps.