By Emily Jaycox For the Stettler Independent
The Stettler Lightning Junior B hockey team got redemption in their season home opener against the Medicine Hat Cubs on Sept. 23, after a rough pre-season.
The Lightning took two losses and three injuries in three exhibition games, but the coaches hope their strong offensive line will carry them through.
“We have a good group of returning forwards,” said Doug Smith, team manager.
“Hopefully they’ll carry us over any rough patches.”
The Lightning won a decisive 7-1 away game victory over the Three Hills Thrashers Sept. 8 but suffered back-to-back losses to the Blackfalds Wranglers 3-1, Sept. 9 and 4-3, Sept. 11.
Three of the team’s players are down for the count and expected to remain on the injury list for four-to-six weeks.
The team has two new goaltenders this season, one coming up from the Stettler minor hockey program, Davin Nattestad, and Dawson Beck, from Delburne.
The team is bolstered by three new defensive players this year.
They are older players coming back so there will be a bit of a learning curve, says Smith.
The Lightning is also being joined this season by new Assistant Coach Trevor Wagner, who coached minor hockey a few years ago.
The two front-runners in the North Division of the Heritage Junior B Hockey League (HJHL) this season will likely be the Airdrie Thunder and the Red Deer Vipers.
The Lightning aims to be mid-to-high in the pack with the best of them this year, says Smith.
“We’re expecting good things this season.”
The Lightning played their first league game of the season in Airdrie on Friday, Sept. 21.
Airdrie was a strong team last year, says Lightning Head Coach Rory Rost.
Sunday’s game against the Cubs was a good challenge, with the Cubs going 3 and 0 in their pre-season exhibition games.
The Lightning played the Cubs twice last season, home and away, winning one, and losing one.
“They’re a pretty competitive team, but a younger team in the league,” said Rost, adding that now both teams have another season under their belts.
The Lightning defeated the Cubs 8-6 on Sept. 23.