Weekend travel takes its toll on Stampeders

By CHARLES TWEED

It was a long, grinding weekend of travel for the Ponoka Stampeders.

First the Stamps travelled to Cochrane to take on the Generals, a team in first place in the central division.

The travel caught up to Ponoka. The team was sluggish in the first and gave up six goals in the opening frame, the lone bright spot was a Bryce Hunker marker, his second of the season.

The Stamps had more jump in the second, getting a pair from Brandon Regush and one from Scott Rarick en route to winning the period 3-2 and cutting the deficit to four.

In the third, Ponoka gave up a couple of power play goals and failed to generate enough offense being outshot 16-7 and losing the contest 11-4.

“We didn’t get the wheels going until halfway through the first and by that time it was too late. Our goaltending was an issue, as well. Our goalies need to be our best two players on the ice on any given night and both guys struggled and weren’t ready to start,” said coach Randy Rook.

The weekend didn’t get any easier as the team would have to be on the road early Sunday for a trip to Okotoks, after getting home late on Saturday night.

Again, Ponoka fell behind early giving up the first four goals before answering with a couple of their own off the sticks of Ryan Blades and Anthony Pickering.

The teams traded singles in the second, Mason Milgate potted his fourth of the year to make the score 5-3, after 40.

The third started with a bang. First, Tyler Poskus scored his sixth of the season to make it a one-goal game. Okotoks would answer to regain the two-goal cushion but with 12 minutes left in the period the Stamps would strike again as Anthony Pickering got his second of the game. The score would stay 6-5 until the final two minutes when Okotoks put it away with a power play marker and another into an empty net to make the final 8-5.

“Players have to understand every shift counts and when we play hard we’re a tough team to beat. We spotted Okotoks four and we didn’t lay down, didn’t quit and kept competing. We got it to 6-5, so we didn’t roll over,” said Rook.

One major problem on the weekend was the play of the special teams. The Stamps gave up four power play goals on 12 opportunities and maybe more worrisome is the team failed to score on any of their 10 advantages.

“I’m less concerned with the goals against, the teams we played are talented groups. But we couldn’t get anything going in the power play. The guys weren’t moving their legs and getting set up and you’re just not going to get any opportunities that way. We’re playing better even strength and short handed than we are on the power play and I think the guys are just too relaxed. We need more of a sense of urgency.”

One bright spot was the absence of Jared Kambeitz on Saturday for the contest against Cochrane. If you are asking how missing your leading scorer could possibly be a bright spot, it’s because Kambeitz was called up to the Alberta Junior Hockey League to play with the Drumheller Dragons.

“I’m of the philosophy if the player has the ability to play at a higher lever, he should. Jared has been good for us and deserved the reward to go up there. Plus it bodes well for Ponoka, and lets people understand the Stampeders are developing talent. And we are going to do everything we can to help guys get to the next level. It’s a real drawing card for our team,” said Rook.

The Stampeders have three games remaining in the season and play host to the High River Flyers on Feb. 5 at home.

In other news, it has been learned the Rimbey Rock has been suspended for the remainder of the 2011 season. The Rock, with no wins and 26 losses on the season, have had trouble icing a competitive team and more recently have had trouble icing a team at all.