The Stettler Lightning enter October in search of their first win in the still-young Heritage Junior Hockey League season.
The Lightning lost 6-4 to the host Red Deer Vipers on Saturday night to drop to 0-2 in the regular season, after posting a perfect 3-0 record in exhibition action.
Stettler rebounded from a 4-0 first-period deficit to make a game of it at the venerable Red Deer Arena.
“The game could have gone in one of two directions after a 4-0 start in the first period, but to the guys’ credit, I thought they did a real good job of getting back in the hockey game and really contesting for it near the end,” said Lighting coach and general manager Doug Smith.
“So it was a good half a game to build on. We just have to realize we have to be ready to start. No matter what happens to us, we just have to take it in stride and get back to our game. We didn’t do a real good job of backchecking in the first period and they’re fairly quick, so they kind of got away with a few odd-man rushes in the first 10 to 15 minutes. They have lots of lines that have played together before.”
The Lightning face their first two-game weekend of the season when they visit the Airdrie Extreme (1-3) on Friday night and return to Stettler for their home-opener Saturday night against the Banff Bears (3-2).
Saturday’s game is a 7:30 p.m. start at the Stettler Recreation Centre.
“Airdrie is going to be another tough contest,” Smith said. “It always is down in Airdrie.
“Who knows against Banff anymore. It looks like they’re scoring goals like crazy, so it’ll be another game where you don’t run and gun with them. You just play controlled hockey. We don’t (want to) trade scoring opportunities — we defend correctly and then make our offensive rushes off of that.”
At Red Deer, Adam Ternes scored two power-play goals for Stettler. Kyler O’Connor netted a shorthanded marker and Jake Schwarzenberger added an even-strength goal.
Simon Thieleman made 27 saves for the Lightning, who fired 38 shots at Klay Munro. Red Deer, which connected twice on the power play, got two goals and four points from Chris Robertson.
The other scorers were Zac Bouw, Kolton Gillett and rookies Eric Moltzahn and Kale Lapointe, a scoring machine last season with the Rimbey midget A team.
Stettler’s Kid Line — twins Adam and Scott Ternes with Dylan Houston — connected for five points after being shut down in the Lightning’s 2-1 season-opening loss to the Three Hills Thrashers. The three 17-year-old forwards were back in the same Red Deer rink where they connected two seasons ago as the top line for the provincial minor midget AAA champion Red Deer IROC Chiefs.
“Adam, Scott and Dylan, I think they had a really good weekend again,” Smith said. “They’re just kind of learning how to play together again and learning that they’re kind of a target this year, so that there’s some things that they have to do correctly to get scoring opportunities. Teams are really taking away their space, so there are things they’re learning to do better.
“Defensively as a whole, our defensive group, even though we allowed six, I thought we didn’t make many terrible mistakes. We moved the puck really well out of our own zone and defended well. We just got caught on some weird changes and some long shifts in the second period, basically, and that kind of thing.
“We’re nice and solid right from top to bottom. Now, we’ve just got to start being a little more efficient all the time.”
The Lightning have opened the season with a 24-man roster that includes seven newcomers. One of those, Stettler goaltender Jeff Skaley, is scheduled to start Friday night at Airdrie, with Thieleman slotted in for Saturday’s home-opener.
The Lightning welcomed forward Derek Muhlbach for his first league game since leaving the Lightning about a year ago. Muhlbach and his twin Dylan, however, won’t be available this weekend because of their work commitments, Smith said.
“Hopefully, Wyat (Haustein) is back this week, so we might have him (for the weekend games). Again, we kind of reshuffle our deck and get ready for Airdrie on Friday night and then our home-opener on Saturday.”
CALENDAR: HOME-OPENER – Lightning versus Banff at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Stettler Recreation Centre
The 24-man season-opening roster for the Stettler Lightning:
1 — Jeff Skaley
35 — Simon Thieleman
2 — Blake Johnson
4 — Cody Wright
5 — Ryan Graff
8 — DJ Kistner
13 — Dylan Muhlbach
18 — Steven Fletcher
19 — Mark Dietz
20 — Cam Wright
3 — Randon Rankin
6 — Landon Potter
7 — Connor Doucette
9 — Scott Ternes
10 — Adam Ternes
16 — Jake Schwarzenberger
17 — Derek Muhlbach
21 — Dylan Houston
22 — Wyat Haustein
23 — Joel Meredith
24 — Logan Davidson
25 — Reese Anheliger
26 — Kyler O’Connor
27 — Jacob Hamel