It was a rough weekend for the Stettler Lightning as the Junior B hockey team lengthened its losing streak to eight games, dropping the team to last place in their division.
It started with a Friday, Oct. 23 home ice battle with the Ponoka Stampeders which ended in a 7-3 loss for the Lightning. Before a crowd of about 100 people, the Stampeders trampled the Lightning in the first, scoring three goals, two in quick succession, before the buzzer signaled the end of the period.
In the second it appeared there’d be more of the same as the Stampeders strengthened their lead with a quick, unassisted goal about five minutes in, but Derek Muhlbach broke the drought for the Lightning, managing to sneak the puck past Stamps’ goaltender Lanny Blitt in a before-the-net scrum, bringing the score to 4-1.
The Lightning kept the pressure on, earning their second score off a quick shot from Dylan Houston. Before the period was over, though, the Stampeders added to their goal tally, so the second ended 6-2.
The third started with the Lightning short-handed from a late second period penalty and the Ponoka team capitalized it, adding another, final goal to their game tally. About 10 minutes later, Jacob Bottomley narrowed the gap with a goal, but the Lightning couldn’t break through the Stampeders defense to tie up or advance past the visiting Stampeders.
The next day, the Lightning hosted the second-place team in the southern division, the Okotoks Bisons, and though the team seemed to have better cohesion than the previous day against Ponoka, lost 10-1.
“We were mostly holding our own,” Doug Smith, general manager, said. “Then something happens and we sag because our confidence is shaken.”
The team’s lone goal was scored in the second period by Logan Davidson, though the team had several excellent shots on net, and kept the pressure up.
The score doesn’t represent the type of game it was, Smith insisted. A few bad penalties in the third really crushed the team, he said.
“We had a five minute penalty in the third, so we were down a man,” Smith explained. “Then a second penalty had us down two.”
During that part of the third, the Bisons scored four times. Though the Lightning had been down 6-1 before that last rally from the Bisons, those goals had been hard-earned by the Bisons, and the Lightning had made several respectable shots on the visiting team, including a few post-ringers that had the crowd groaning in frustration.
Despite the two losses, and the team’s losing streak, Smith said he’s not particularly worried.
“If this was a team full of older people, I’d be worried,” he said. “We have so many new players, and they’re getting used to the system, the tempo of it. We’re going to be focusing on defense and goaltending this week.”
The losing streak is a blow to the team’s confidence but it’s only the first month of the season, so things will look up, Smith said.
The team next plays on Friday, Oct. 30 in High River. Smith said the team is about on par with Stettler in skill, but the ice surface itself is a bit smaller than what the team is used to, which can cause some difficulties.
The following day, Stettler was to host the Medicine Hat Cubs, but problems on Medicine Hat’s end has led to a postponement, Smith said. A date for the match hasn’t been scheduled at this time.