It wasn’t a good weekend for the Stettler Lightning as they played two back-to-back away games on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, Sept. 26, the Lightning played at High River, the team they soundly beat during their home opener the week before. High River turned the tables, dealing the Lightning a 5-2 loss.
High River opened the game with three goals in the first period, while Stettler continually missed the net.
“We had a great start to the game,” Doug Smith, general manager, said. “We had a few breakaways, but just didn’t score.”
After a brief regrouping in between periods, the Lightning’s No. 28, Cody Hoskins, struck seven minutes into the second period, putting the Stettler team on the board. Though the second period was rife with scoring opportunities, including several back-to-back and overlapping power-plays, the team couldn’t capitalize on the man-up advantage. They did, however, prevent High River from scoring the entire period.
Not willing to let the Lightning catch up, High River burst from the box in the third, scoring two more goals before Stettler’s Dylan Houston scored Stettler’s second goal about 14 minutes into the 20-minute period. That was the last goal of the night for either team, and the game closed down with a final 5-2 score.
“We lost Jake Schwarzenberger to a shoulder injury halfway through,” Smith said, noting the loss of the assistant captain and centre really hurt the team, as it was running light on centre icemen. He said the team had to shuffle players out of positions, and though they rose to the occasion, it still left the team weak in the middle.
The next night, Stettler headed to Strathmore for the team’s season opener. It was the first game in two years for Strathmore, who did not participate in the league last season.
According to Smith, the crowd that came out to support Strathmore was “huge.” The excitement of being back in the league and having a huge home crowd galvanized the Strathmore team, who all but rolled over the Lightning in the first period.
“It became a game of survival,” Smith conceded. Rookie goalie Jordan McCallum gave up five goals in the first, but Smith said the “shell-shocked” goalie performed well, and that the numerous goals were not his fault, but the fault of a team that wasn’t playing well together.
At about nine-and-a-half minutes into the first, Houston managed to slip the puck past Strathmore’s goalie, getting Stettler on the board, but the first ended with a painful 5-1 score.
Pulling McCallum was necessary because the rough first period had left him reeling, Smith said, and goalie Devon Woelk was put in for the second and third periods. The team caught their breath, regrouped, and readied themselves for the second period.
The Lightning struck first in the second, about a minute into the period, when Logan Davidson scored for the team.
“The second saw some great power-play opportunities,” Smith said, then noted, “But we didn’t cash in on (them).”
He said the second period was “odd” in that they were frequently one-up on the other team, but playing an aggressive, power-play game wears out the offensive line.
The second period ended with a score of 6-2, Strathmore managing one goal.
With a large deficit to close, the Lightning took the ice to play an aggressive, risky game. It paid off with a goal not even a full minute into the third, netted by Scott Ternes, but also opened up their side to increased risk as the defensive line was weaker.
Strathmore capitalized on the weak defense and netted themselves two more goals, and the game closed on an 8-3 note.
Smith said the players made some bad individual decisions in both games and cost the team scoring opportunities, so focusing on bringing the players together to play with more of a team-mind than an individual-mind.
With Schwarzenberger and Cody Wright out for at least another game, the return of Adam Ternes, who was out with a shoulder injury, and inclusion of Ponoka’s Tyler Ekeli, whose transfer papers came through, is especially welcome, Smith said. The team has also acquired a few more players cut from some other nearby teams and will hopefully be on the roster soon.
The Lightning next play on Oct. 4 in Stettler against Cochrane. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.