The Stettler Lightning remain hopeful despite enduring a “tough weekend” with back-to-back losses at home, in the words of head coach Doug Smith.
The team hosted the Coaldale Copperheads on Friday, Dec. 5, and despite taking an early lead, the Lightning fell behind and ended with a 6-3 loss.
The following day, they hosted the Okotoks Bisons, who led from the start and finished with a 6-2 victory.
Smith said the combination of facing some of the league’s stronger teams and having several players still recovering from injury has been hard on the Lightning, but he’s hoping to end the year on a high note.
“We’re not getting any luck,” he said.
The team broke an 11-game losing streak with a 4-3 win in overtime against the Mountainview Colts on Nov. 22, but the streak has since resumed with three consecutive defeats.
Copperheads 6 Lightning 3
Friday’s game began an hour later than announced, owing to bus troubles suffered by Coaldale. Smith said the Lightning received notice of the issue and the game was delayed until 9 p.m.
Friday’s game started well for Stettler with an unassisted goal by Adam Ternes, the only goal for either team in period one.
Logan Davidson scored two minutes into the second period, giving the team a 2-0 lead, but Coaldale quickly caught up with three goals before the period’s end, including two less than a minute apart.
“For 50 minutes of that hockey game, we played very, very well,” said Smith, saying that a “meltdown” at the end of the second period, coupled with some “grievous mistakes,” cost the team dearly.
“You’d hope at this point in the year that kind of thing would be taken care of,” he said, adding, “We were given opportunities, but (the Copperheads) do have a really solid first line.”
Coaldale led 3-2 heading into the third period. Jake Schwarzenberger scored a power play goal for the Lightning with eight minutes remaining, but the Copperheads added another three points to their tally within the period, ending 6-3.
Bisons 6 Lightning 2
Okotoks took a quick lead in Saturday’s game, leading 4-0 by the halfway point. Smith called it a “shaky start” for Stettler.
“That didn’t get off on a real smooth note,” he said, adding that the team recovered somewhat during the second period but then allowed the game to get away from them.
Scott Ternes scored a power play goal with two-and-a-half minutes left in the second period, but Okotoks scored again 16 seconds later, strengthening their lead to 5-1.
A power play midway through the third period gave Stettler its second and final goal of the game, courtesy of Logan Davidson, but Okotoks matched the feat with seven minutes remaining to finish with a 6-2 victory.
Smith said the Lightning managed to limit the Bisons’ scoring in the third round but observed that their competitors had strong scorers spread throughout their lines.
Defenseman Brandon Hoskins sustained a concussion in Saturday’s game and will be out on recovery for the time being.
Smith said that Levi Fisher and Michael Neumeier, both recovering from injury, are expected to rejoin the team at practices this week.
The two losses mean Stettler remains in sixth place out of seven teams in the northern division of the Heritage Junior Hockey League, with six wins, 14 losses and three overtime losses.
The team will visit the Ponoka Stampeders on Dec. 10 and the Coaldale Copperheads on Dec. 13; their next home game is against Ponoka on Dec. 16.
An away game in Medicine Hat, postponed from its original date of Nov. 29 due to weather conditions, has been rescheduled for Jan. 4, 2015, at 2:15 p.m.