Mired in a seven-game losing streak, the Stettler Lightning also suffered a loss of another sort in a forgettable October.
One of the junior B team’s most talented players, defenceman Dylan Muhlbach, has decided to quit the Lightning and play senior hockey with two of his brothers with their hometown Big Valley Oil Kings.
Muhlbach, who turned 18 in September, is a firstyear geoscience student at the University of Calgary. He commuted back and forth to Stettler for the first month of the Heritage Junior Hockey League season.
“I was playing with the Lightning, but I just recently quit there, because I can’t really commit to it anymore,” Muhlbach said Monday night from Calgary.
“I can’t make any of the practices or anything like that, and only a few of the games, so I was almost like an affiliate, pretty much.
“My brothers are playing in Big Valley, so the time I’m going to be down (home) playing, I’d rather spend it with them, so I’m going to play with the Oil Kings now.”
He plans to be available this Saturday night when the Oil Kings begin their Battle River senior league season with a home game against the Irma Aces.
Big Valley visits the Tofield Satellites on Sunday evening.
Muhlbach believes the lighter schedule for senior hockey will be a better match for his school and travel commitments.
“Yeah, they don’t have near as many games (as the junior B teams),” he said. “There’s a couple of guys from Calgary playing on the (Big Valley) team, too.
“I was talking with my brothers and they said, ‘There’s guys from Calgary you could probably car-pool with.’ If I can, that would be great.”
The Muhlbach family hat trick with the Oil Kings includes Dylan’s twin, Derek, and their 24-year-old brother, Brett.
The twins were rookies with the Lightning last season in their final year of high school. This summer, they helped Stettler win a provincial under-18 soccer championship.
With his move to Calgary, Dylan Muhlbach didn’t plan to play with the Lightning this season, but he changed his mind in the pre-season. He dressed for five games, with a goal and four points, but wasn’t available for the past couple of weeks.
“I hadn’t played the last couple of games,” he said. “Just the way school has gone, it’s been really busy.
“And partly … I don’t feel it’s fair to the (Lightning) guys, just because I don’t practise with them or anything. I just got onto an intramural hockey team and I go to the gym, but I only skate once a week and it’s not with the (Stettler) team, and all I do is come play games.
“It’s just mostly a commitment thing and I’d rather be with my brothers.”
Muhlbach, six-foot-one and 180 pounds, has long been used to life on the hockey road.
“I don’t mind driving — it’s part of hockey,” he said. “There’s going to be travelling. And I don’t want to quit hockey, that’s for sure. I don’t want to get out of it.”