Not even a raging snowstorm and a broken-down bus could stop the surging Stettler Lightning.
After a bus breakdown in Brooks that left them stranded for more than two hours Saturday, the Lightning came from behind to defeat the host Medicine Hat Cubs 5-2 that night and win their ninth straight Heritage Junior Hockey League game.
The Lightning — tied with the Okotoks Bisons atop the league with matching 9-3 records — go for win No. 10 this Sunday at home against the Coaldale Copperheads in a rare 2 p.m. contest.
After a supper stop in Brooks, the Lightning discovered their bus was leaking oil in the parking lot of the restaurant, so the call went out for help, said coach-GM Doug Smith. Another bus arrived from Medicine Hat to pick them up, but not until after a long wait on the team bus.
“We were scrambling to find another bus, and a mechanic from Brooks was trying to get our bus fixed,” Smith said. “We finally got to Medicine Hat at about 8:20, and we were playing hockey by 8:40.”
Despite the adversity, Smith reasoned that the Lightning might have had less of a disadvantage than their hosts.
“That was OK, because I think it’s probably easier on the travel team,” he said. “Because when we get there, we get there. But they (the Cubs) would be doing a lot of sitting around, wondering if we’re ever going to get there.”
The Lightning trailed 2-1 going into the scoreless second period, but they netted all four goals in the final 20 minutes to post their second win over the Cubs in as many games.
“Simon (Thieleman) made a couple of big saves in the first period that kept the score close and kept us in the game until we got our feet moving,” said Smith, whose Lightning opened the season with three losses.
“After we scored on a power play early in the third, they ran into more penalty trouble and we were pretty much on our way. Things started to unravel for them.
“We only had three lines and seven (defencemen), and we lost Connor (Doucette) to an unfortunate checking-from-behind (penalty) early in the second period. We moved Randon Rankin up to forward and he played quite well on that side.
“We were down to the bare minimum, but I think it helped us keep our flow going.”
Thieleman, the league’s goaltender of the month for October, made 24 saves. The Lightning fired 26 shots at Cole Schafer.
Scott Ternes scored two goals for Stettler, which connected twice on power plays. Landon Potter, Jake Schwarzenberger and Kyler O’Connor also scored for the Lightning.
Smith reported that the Lightning were missing forwards Dylan Houston (shoulder injury) and Logan Davidson (hunting). Also out of the lineup, because of work commitments, were Derek Muhlbach, Cam Wright and Blake Johnson.
The Lightning forged on, much as they did Sunday when they travelled home through a snowstorm. They’re hoping the comforts of home will help them this Sunday against Coaldale (7-7-2).
“We’ve kind of set a mini-goal that by the time we play Okotoks next Saturday (Nov. 16 at home), we want that game to be for first-place overall,” Smith said. “We have one more game this week, against Coaldale, to make that happen.
“Coaldale has always had fairly big teams through their existence in the Heritage league, so I don’t expect that to be any different. They beat Okotoks (5-4) on Saturday night, so they’ll be tough.”