Lightning spark dwindles

The comeback staged by the Stettler Lightning the week before last turned out to be a brief spark rather than a flame when unnecessary penalties, an at-times porous defense line and weaknesses in controlling and moving the puck on the ice brought three consecutive defeats last week.

Seeking a hole – Orie Spearing putting pressure on the Thrashers defence in their game last Friday

Seeking a hole – Orie Spearing putting pressure on the Thrashers defence in their game last Friday

The comeback staged by the Stettler Lightning the week before last turned out to be a brief spark rather than a flame when unnecessary penalties, an at-times porous defense line and weaknesses in controlling and moving the puck on the ice brought three consecutive defeats last week.

The Lightning lost 6-2 to Blackfalds Wranglers on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 4-3 to Three Hills Thrashers on Friday, Jan. 29 and 11-5 to Cochrane Generals on Saturday, Jan. 30.

Despite the news of the first defeat on Tuesday, fans flocked to fill the stands on Friday night to support and cheer the Lightning.

With the start of the game, the Lightning tried to establish its dominance on the rink, but the local players struggled to protect, control and move the puck as Three Hills Thrashers slowly gained the upper hand and dictated the pace and shape of the game throughout, leaving the Lightning only the opportunity to respond if and when they could.

The visitors opened the scoring in the 13th minute of the first period and the Lightning responded within two minutes through Jeff Kohut in power-play.

Then in the second period, when the Lightning was left shorthanded, the Thrashers scored once again making it 2-1 and the local boys responded about eight minutes later through Adam McDavid, thanks to the power play advantage.

The Lightning was again short-handed when the visiting team scored just 42 seconds into the third period and they consolidated their lead to 4-2 within three minutes, a gap the Lightning failed to close despite a late goal in the third by Claye Spady.

The next day’s game against Cochrane Generals turned out to be a nightmare for many fans from the very beginning.

Finding easy loopholes in the defense, the Generals scored five goals in the first period and six in the second.

The Lightning defense in visible disarray, failed in stopping the attacks of the Generals. Most of the goals the visiting team came in close-by shots.

The Lightning responded through Orie Spearing and Lanny Duncan in the first period.

In the second period, a goal that came from a very difficult shot by Ryan Traynor fired up the Lightning with the whole team staging a spectacular comeback.

The Lightning played their hearts out until the end of the game and scored two more, one by Jeff Kohut and the other by Brett Oulette, but it was too little too late to save the game.

The Lightning head coach Doug Smith described the game against Cochrane as “disappointing.”

“Even though the score was 6-2, the game in Blackfalds was closer than that,” he said.

“They did not allow anything in power play (in Blackfalds).”

As for the Thrashers game, “a couple of misses and a couple of hick-ups on our part changed the complexion of that hockey game,” said coach Smith.

“It could have ended up 4-3 our way but it turned out to be 4-3 their way,” he added.

“We did not keep our focus in that game,” Smith continued in reference to the game against Cochrane Generals.

“Too many easy scoring opportunities (for Generals) let us down.”

The Lightning played the first of the five remaining regular season games on Tuesday evening against the Red Deer Vipers at the Stettler Recreation Centre. The final score was not available at the press time.

The Lightning will play three more home games, two of them against Ponoka and one against Rimbey and one more game on the road against Rimbey to complete the season.

The Lightning sits at the third place in the Northern Division of Heritage B Junior Hockey league with 20 points, followed by Rimbey Rock with 13 points.