The Stettler Lightning Junior Hockey team kicked off the pre-season with an overtime 6-5 shoot-out win against the Mountainview Colts in Stettler on Friday, Sept. 2, though the Colts rebounded the next day with a 9-6 win in Carstairs.
Stettler owned the first period of their first exhibition game, with Matt Sylvester scoring the lone goal, sneaking it past the Colts’ goaltender. He repeated the trick early in the second period, bringing the score to 2-0. The Colts regrouped and, by the end of the second period, had tied up the game 2-2.
Stettler pulled ahead half-way through the third off a goal by Logan Davidson, then widened the scoring gap with another Sylvester goal, bringing the game to 4-2. Relaxing with their lead cost the Lightning, though, as the Colts in quick succession closed the gap, tying the game once again.
Dylan Rost broke the stalemate with less than two minutes left in the game, giving the Bolts a 5-4 edge, but again, the Colts closed the gap. When the buzzer rang, the game was tied 5-5. An over-time period resulted in much of the same, bringing the team back to a shootout.
The shootout started with Sylvester, who didn’t manage a goal, and shots by Dylan Rost, Ethan Rost and Mark Bengert left the team unsatisfied. Stettler Goalie Jordan McCallum kept his calm, blocking shot after shot by the Colts.
On the fifth try, Davidson slapped the puck past the Colts netminder, securing the first game, first win glory for the Bolts.
The next day was not as fortunate, though, as the team went down 9-6 to the hosts, once again the Colts.
Sylvester took advantage of a powerplay to score the Lightning’s first goal in the first period, with goals by Keiran Rost and Bengert bringing the first-period tally 3-1 for Stettler. The lead didn’t last, as the two goals by Matt Joahnnson and Jordan Fisher were outpaced by four Colts goals, bringing the score to 5-5.
The Colts pulled ahead in the third, and even though the Lightning out-skated the home team, the last-minute goal by Sylvester wasn’t enough to compete with the three from the home team, putting the Bolts down for their first pre-season loss.
The Lightning continue to shake out its roster, with about 30 players having thus far made the cut. The mix of returning veterans has been augmented by a fleet of fast-skating rookies, according to General Manager Doug Smith.
“They’re fast,” he said with a chuckle. “You see the others go, ‘Oh, wow.'”
A generous audience of Bolts fans came out to the blue rink at the Stettler Recreation Centre to see the Lightning’s first game of the pre-season, and the only one to happen at home. Of the five exhibition games, two had the Lightning face off against perennial foes Mountainview, while two more will see the team face Blackfalds. A game against Wetaskiwin will round off the pre-season before Stettler returns home for the team’s first regular season on Friday, Sept. 23 against the Mountainview Colts.
The Lightning remain part of the North Division of the Heritage Junior Hockey League. In their division, they will face the Airdrie Thunder, Blackfalds Wranglers, Mountainview Colts, Ponoka Stampeders, Red Deer Vipers and the Three Hills Thrashers.
The Southern Division is home to Banff Academy, Coaldale Copperheads, Cochrane Generals, High River Flyers, Medicine Hat Cubs, Okotoks Bisons and Strathmore Wheatland Kings.