It was a rough week on the road for the Stettler Lightning, who played three games and came home empty-handed.
On Wednesday, Nov. 25, Stettler headed to Ponoka to face the Stampeders, a team they’d beaten just days earlier in a tense 5-4 overtime on home ice. The Stamps weren’t interested in a repeat, coming out of the gate strong and scoring within the first two minutes of the first.
The Stampeders held the Lightning at bay all throughout the first and second periods, while picking up another goal of their own. In the third, Dylan Houston managed to break through the Ponoka defence to get the Lightning on the board, but another goal by Ponoka sealed the 3-1 deal.
“The teams are pretty evenly matched,” Doug Smith, general manager, said. “Both teams did well defensively, but later in the game when Stettler was pushing really hard, their goalie came up with the saves and that made the difference.”
The next stop on the Lightning away week was Three Hills, where the Lightning faced the Three Hills Thrashers on Friday, Nov. 27. The Thrashers thrashed the Lightning 7-3, scoring three times in the first and twice in the second before Kieran Rost, taking advantage of a powerplay, put Stettler on the board. Another powerplay goal from Logan Davidson in the second, and one from Derek Muhlbach in the third got Stettler three goals on the board — but weak defensive work on Stettler’s part let in seven goals by the Thrashers.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start,” Gavin Brandl, head coach of the Lightning, said. The problem is one that’s plagued the team throughout the season, with slow starts and defensive gaps allowing opposing teams to get a goal or two ahead.
The next day, the boys headed to Strathmore, taking on the Wheatland Kings, where they lost a third time for the week: 5-2.
The Kings dominated the first period, scoring three goals and keeping Stettler at bay. After the intermission, the Lightning hit the ice with determination, scoring twice. Less than two minutes into the second, Houston, using a powerplay advantage, slapped the puck past the Kings’ netminder. He repeated the trick with only seconds left in the period.
That was it for the Lightning, though, with the Kings picking up a fifth and final goal in the third.
Despite the losses, morale seems to be steady, Smith said. He stopped in at the team’s practice on Monday, Nov. 30 and saw a few new faces coming to try out for the coveted remaining places on the team.
“I know we’re working on our discipline right now,” Smith said. “It’s a big thing, keeping things together on the ice and starting strong and fast.”
There’s three more away games before Stettler returns home on Friday, Dec. 18. Then, the Lightning will face Mountainview, followed by Three Hills the next day and Blackfalds on Tuesday, Dec. 22.
The three losses have tied Stettler for last place in the league with Medicine Hat and Ponoka.