A victory was just what the doctor ordered for the Ponoka Stampeders.
A 5-4 shootout win over Strathmore on home ice Saturday, Jan. 30 in the Stampeders only game of the week has provided them with the needed boost in their confidence as well as vaulted them into the final playoff spot in the Heritage Junior Hockey League North Division standings with one week remaining in the regular schedule.
The victory puts the Stampeders in sixth spot with 22 points, one up on Stettler with each club having three games remaining. Stettler played Red Deer on Monday, Feb. 1 losing 7 – 0 then face Three Hills and Airdrie this weekend, while Ponoka took on Blackfalds last night (Tuesday, Feb. 2 – result unavailable at press time) and will play in Airdrie and Red Deer on the weekend.
Head coach Tyler Fiveland stated after the game that it was a huge win for the club and hopes it is enough for them to reach the playoffs for the first time in years.
“It was great, but wow, what a way to squeak one out,” Fiveland said.
“We definitely needed that game, now we just have to keep going and not let up.”
The contest went back and forth with Strathmore notching the only goal of the first midway through the period, while Justin Van Tetering tied it with less than four minutes to play in the second only to have Strathmore regain the lead less than a minute later.
It was a wild third frame as the visitors increased their lead only 29 seconds in. Eight minutes later, Mik Doell cut the lead on a nice feed from Nate Higgins only to have Strathmore regain the two-goal lead 18 seconds later.
That’s when Ponoka’s forecheck and stretching Strathmore’s defence began to get to the visitors, leading to Doell’s second of the night midway through the third followed three minutes later by his hat trick goal – shorthanded – after stripping the Strathmore defenceman of the puck and cruising in alone on the netminder before firing it into the goal to tie the game.
Overtime solved nothing, except to intensify the excitement in the fans hoping for a Stampeders victory.
The first three shooters for each squad couldn’t register a goal and it was finally in the fourth round that Stampeders’ Kwyn Hiebert scored to earn the win.
Hoof prints – The Stampeders also used that final home game of the regular season to give a bit back to minor hockey in Ponoka, as they hosted one of the local novice teams with a chili and hot dog dinner prior to the game, which coincided with the last game of the novice tournament that was held on the weekend. The novice team also joined the Stampeders on the ice for some recognition and to enjoy being out there with the big team for the national anthem.