Stamps clinch first place
by Phil Ambroziak
With the regular season behind them, the Meadow Lake Stampeders will be heading into the upcoming North Saskatchewan River Hockey League (NSRHL) playoffs ranked number one.
In a game held in Goodsoil Friday night (Jan. 30), the Stamps defeated the third-place St. Walburg Eagles 2-1 to tighten their stranglehold on the top spot in the NSRHL standings, ending the regular season with a record of 12 wins and only four losses. Their ranking also secures Meadow Lake a first-round playoff series against either the fourth-place Paradise Hill Hawks or fifth-place Maidstone Jets, depending on who wins a best-of-three “survivor series” between the two lowest-ranked teams. Meanwhile, the Edam 3 Stars and St. Walburg, who ended the season in second and third place respectively, will also square off in the opening round of playoffs later this month.
“When you look at the league this year, the top teams really were Meadow Lake, Edam and St. Walburg, and none of those teams want to play each other in the first round,” explained Stamps coach Ian Turberfield. “Because we finished first overall, we won’t have to. But, that also doesn’t mean we’re guaranteed a spot in the finals. Having the opportunity to take the easier road is always nice, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Paradise Hill in particular has been playing well as of late and has worked hard to get better. You can’t take any team lightly and I can’t totally agree whoever finishes first in the season will automatically move on to the championship final.”
As for Friday’s action, St. Walburg led 1-0 after the first period. However, Meadow Lake would score twice in the second courtesy of Ashton McIntyre and Jarret Aschenbrenner. A scoreless third period eventually ended in Meadow Lake’s 2-1 victory. The event itself, which was a first this season for Goodsoil, attracted close to 300 fans eager to cheer on both Meadow Lake and St. Walburg.
“To play in a neutral site as we did was a great way to promote the league and hats off to St. Walburg for organizing it,” Turberfield continued. “The crowd, the atmosphere, they were just great. There are a few fellows on these teams from that area. If we’re going to promote our league and try to keep it going, we have to continue to do things like this.”
In spite of their ongoing success in league play, the Stamps didn’t fare nearly as well in their recent provincial ‘A’ series against the Waldheim Prairie Outlaws of the Fort Carlton Hockey League.
After losing the first game 6-1 in the best-of-three series last week, Meadow Lake – joined by key players from the St. Walburg Eagles – were eliminated Saturday night following a 9-1 loss in Game 2 held at the Meadow Lake and District Arena before more than 500 spectators. DJ King scored the lone goal for Meadow Lake late in the first period, at which time the score was 1-1.
“We had a shorter bench than expected for that one and, any time it comes to provincial hockey, the play is very high tempo,” Turberfield said. “It’s not like league play where you’re able to get by with two or two-and-a-half lines. If you don’t have three or four good lines, you’re in for a rude awakening. If we had our roster where it should have been, I don’t know if we wouldn’t have still come out on the short end of the stick because Waldheim still iced a very good team.”