The Ponoka Stampeders are limping into the holiday break and likely hoping the time off will help them to refocus.
A loss to the Stettler Lightning in their final home game of 2016 to go along with a win over the basement dwelling Three Hills Thrashers has kept the local junior B squad in the all too familiar position of being so close to missing out on the playoffs.
With just a week away from the Christmas break in the Heritage Junior Hockey League schedule, the Stamps presently sit with record of six wins, 16 losses and three overtime/shootout losses for 15 points. That leaves them in sixth place in the North division only four points better than Three Hills, while fifth place Stettler is now eight points clear of Ponoka.
Last season, the Stamps hovered around the bottom of the division, but managed to hold off Stettler in the final week to edge into the playoffs for the first time in a decade.
Things were going to be different this season, but the more balanced offensive attack and better play in their own zone has been sporatic, as Nate Higgins has 26 goals so far is about one-third of the teams 80 goals this season. Meanwhile, the team has given up most goals in the league (157) and is second worst at minus-77 in goal differential, just two ahead of Three Hills.
The Stampeders likely want to forget most of their game last Wednesday (Dec. 7) as Stettler blasted them for four straight goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period on their way to an 8-4 win.
Nate Higgins tied the game with about seven minutes to go in the first, as the Stamps kept things clean and their play crisp on the ice.
Then the puck dropped for the second and it was all Lightning from there on, paused only slight by a powerplay goal by Taite Opdendries with just over six minutes remaining the period.
Chevazz Rabbit and Higgins would score in the third, but the Stamps had lost their cool by then, with both the referee and their opposition, which ended up earning them 74 minutes in penalties on the night.
The Stamps were a more composed bunch in Three Hills last Saturday (Dec. 10) where the club engineered a 2-1 come from behind victory.
Roenick Minde put away a shorthanded effort for Ponoka close to three minutes into the second to tie the game, followed six minutes into the third by the game winner by Opdendries.
Hoof prints - The Stamps will finish off 2016 with three straight on the road. The club is in Airdrie this Friday followed next Tuesday with a game in Blackfalds. They will cap things off on Dec. 30 with a contest in Stettler. The team’s next home game isn’t until Jan. 11.