Stettler Lightning had a 0-2 start to the Heritage Junior B Hockey League season over the weekend, losing 3-1 to Three Hills Thrashers on home ice on Friday, Oct. 1 and 4-3 to Ponoka Stampeders on the next day in an away game.
In the home game, the Lightning defense gave hope for the future while the offensive game play clearly needed improvement.
From the very beginning of the game until the final buzz, the Lightning suffered from a penalty problem, which appeared to have been fixed in Saturday’s game.
With 11 penalties in the course of the game, the local boys played almost the length of an entire period short-handed.
After the Thrashers scored early in the first period when the Ligthning was short-handed, the local boys did a superb job of keeping the Thrashers attackers from the net; and when the Thrashers offense did approach, Landon Schmidt turned out to be a powerhouse at the net, refusing to allow the puck in.
Despite continuing to have some of their players in the penalty box, the Lightning slowly recovered from the shock of the early goal and established a balance on the rink in the second period, when offensive efforts produced the only goal for the Lightning about six minuted before the end with a pointed shot by Adam McDavid.
Short-handed play did exact a price in the end, however, with the local players getting tired in the third period and the defense beginning to get loose.
Five minutes before the end of the game, the Thrashers scored one more to take a 2-1 lead and when coach Doug Smith took off the goalie from the net with the hope of a tie, Thrashers scored another one with a long range shot from their own territory to seal the score 3-1.
According to the game sheet from the Lightning- Stampeders game, local boys appeared to have done much better in terms reducing penalty time and improving their offensive game sligthly.
In both games, however, the Lightning clearly lacked the ability to take shots at the opponents’ goal.
During the home game, the Lightning took 15 shots at the Thrashers’ net against 39 shots by the visitors and in Ponoka, they took 23 shots against the 45 of the hosts.
Smith admitted that they had some difficulty in moving the puck in the opponents’ zone in both games.
“We really had a tough time getting our feet moving for some reason, I don’t know why, but that was the case,” said Smith of the home game.
“We had a couple of good chances in the third period but just didn’t catch in on them.”
Smith also agreed that the shooting drought was a problem that they had to deal with.
“We can get to the offensive position but for some reason we are reluctant to put the puck into the net,” he said.
“We have some real difficulty in getting our stick on the puck.”
The Lightning now play Three Hills Thrashers on Friday, Oct. 8 and Coaldale Copperheads the next day in two consecutive road games.