Stampeders lose out in five

The Meadow Lake Stampeders congratulate the Maidstone Jets following Maidstone’s NSRHL championship win March 21.

by Phil Ambroziak

The Meadow Lake Stampeders’ dreams of championship glory have been trampled for another year.

The Maidstone Jets skyrocketed to the top of the North Saskatchewan River Hockey League (NSRHL) with a 4-2 elimination victory over the Stamps in game five of their league championship series. The game took place March 21 at the Meadow Lake Arena, but – in spite of having their dreams dashed on home ice – Stamps coach Ian Turberfield said the team has nothing to be ashamed of.

“We started out very well, but there was a bit of a lapse in the second period,” Turberfield said. “In the third, we gave a bit of a push, but we just didn’t get the results we wanted.”

The Stamps kicked things off early with a goal by Calvin Fiddler at the 15:44 mark of the first period. A series of penalties from both teams rounded out the remainder of period, resulting in a 1-0 Stamps lead after one.

The second period was all Maidstone with a goal less than a minute into the action. Before the second intermission, Maidstone was able to slip two more past Stamps goalie Jeff Vidal leading to a 3-1 Maidstone lead.

The visitors increased their lead with a fourth goal at the 15:15 mark of the third period. Not willing to give up easily, Meadow Lake battled back and managed to get one more on the scoreboard at the 7:56 mark thanks to the efforts of Ashton McIntyre. The celebration was short-lived however, as Maidstone was able to hang on to their lead as the final minutes of the game ticked away.

The team’s victory was shared by a modest contingent of Maidstone fans in attendance while the Stamps graciously left the ice to allow the champions their moment in the spotlight.

The March 21 game was Turberfield’s first behind the bench following a three-game suspension. He doesn’t believe, however, his return altered his players’ mindset going in.

“I don’t really think so,” he said. “The team knew we had to get off to a big start and tonight’s game could have gone either way.”

Turberfield went on to comment on the tremendous season the Stamps had, noting each year is always different.

“You never know what you’re going to wind up with,” he said. “This season, we built a team pretty quickly, but I’m going to be losing some players so I think next season will involve a lot of rebuilding.”

Turberfield was reluctant to say who could be leaving the team, saying he won’t know for sure until the start of next season rolls around.

“Some guys say this and some guys say that,” he said. “Some of them have a bitter taste in their mouths because we didn’t win the championship, but only time will tell.”

One player the coach did confirm won’t be back is Ray Esau who, at age 45, is retiring from league play.

“He’s played hard every year for us,” Turberfield said. “He is an amazing guy who has given so much and it’s sad to lose him. He provided such a strong leadership role both on and off the ice, so it will be a big loss.”

Maidstone coach Rick Johnstone described Wednesday’s game as entertaining.

“Both teams played very well and Meadow Lake deserves credit – they gave a great show for their fans,” Johnstone said of the large, 900-plus crowd.

“Our team had been on a streak as of late, winning 16 of our last 17 games, as a result of playing sound, defensive hockey. That was the key, as was our absolutely outstanding goaltending.”

Turberfield, meanwhile, reiterated his pleasure in seeing how hard the Stamps worked all season.

“I’m proud of the guys,” he added. “They worked hard all year to get to where they finished. Everyone was really tight this year – like a family. They had the mouldings of a championship team, but unfortunately we just fell short. Losing players (to suspensions) was not easy, but everyone worked hard all year and I couldn’t ask for anything less.”

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