By Dale Cory
The Stampeders have certainly had their hands full facing Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) opponents early in the 2011-12 schedule.
And the Stamps now have a handful of defeats to show for the opening two weeks of the season.
In the case of this past weekend, the numbers really do tell the story of a team struggling out of the gate.
The Stampeders were beaten 8-1 in Stettler Friday evening, then came home and suffered a 10-2 loss at the hands of the Airdrie Thunder Saturday at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.
Outshot 120-28 in the two games.
Yes, the numbers really do show a team that was completely outplayed on consecutive evenings.
And a team still without a victory to show for its first five games.
“I know that the talent we have in the dressing room is good enough to be very dangerous to the opposition, but right now we are still finding out each other’s tendencies on the ice and that takes time.”
“I am still very much in the players’ corner despite the losses and frustrations. We have a great group of players, and I am looking at bringing in another to add to the mix,” said head coach and general manager Randy Rook while attempting to enjoy his Thanksgiving weekend supper Monday.
“Most of these players have been the go-to guy on their midget teams, but in junior you need a team of go-to guys. You can not be an individual and try and do it all yourself. The key for this team to start winning some games is to stay positive and start doing all the little things as a unit and play for each other. Once they do that, we will be fine.”
The Stampeders, coming off a 9-2 loss in Medicine Hat Oct. 2, were outshot 18-2 in the first period Friday in Stettler, and escaped trailing by just one goal thanks to the outstanding netminding of Logan Stebner.
The hometown Lightning scored three goals in the second period, and after Cole Pritchard finally put the Stamps on the board with a shorthanded tally early in the third period, with Jordan Pritchard adding the assist, the Lightning finished off Ponoka with the final four goals of the game for the seven-goal margin of victory.
The Stamps were outshot 56-17 by the Lightning.
Saturday on home ice, North Division leading Airdrie had a three-goal lead by the 12:23 mark of the opening period. After Eric Paterson’s first of the year midway through the first, the visiting Thunder scored the game’s next seven goals, including a five-goal second period. Kevin Anderson’s first of the season late in the third rounded out the scoring. The Stamps were outshot 64-21.
“Cole Pritchard has been hot as of late and seems to be finding his stride. Logan Stebner, our goalie, has been a standout despite the goals against. Rookie defenceman Chase Nault has been very solid and has been one of our best players over the last few games. I like the way he is stepping up and reading the play,” said Rook, who will be without Pritchard against Red Deer tonight because of a one-game suspension. “So overall, despite the scores, I do see some positives. It’s just a matter of time until this team turns it around.”
The Stamps host the Vipers Oct. 12 at 7:45 p.m. at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.