No one was quite sure what to expect, but the season wound up with a strong finish.
The Bashaw Stars bantam club concluded its year by winning the Northern Alberta Interlock tier three bronze medal by defeating Ponoka for the first time this season.
Courtesy of a 5-4 win at home March 17 and a 6-2 victory on the road the next day, the Stars had not only taken a league banner, but also defeated Ponoka in straight games after having lost all four regular season games to the Highway 53 neighbours.
“It’s always fun to win your last games of the year,” said coach Roy Carlson.
“Both games were very good and winning was pretty exciting for everyone.”
The Stars were felled in the semi-finals by Tofield — which had an undefeated season on its way to gold — and knew a superb effort was needed against Ponoka.
“All four regular season games were good, even though we lost, and that might have worked a bit in our favour,” he stated.
“That said, the team also knew they had to work hard and play at their best in order to win.”
It was a long road for the Stars, as not only was it the first bantam team for Bashaw Minor Hockey in a few years, but the club was bumped up a tier after the preseason and the coaching staff was unsure how it would go.
“As it turned out, coming up a tier was the right thing for us,” Carlson said.
“We wound up middle of the road, in fifth, after the regular season and managed to take third. We struggled a bit during the season, didn’t peak early and came together at the end. It’s also great for these kids, as this is the same group that lost a league championship in double overtime, so that certainly makes it exciting.”
As for next season, it really depends on a few factors with several players moving up an age category.
“There is a good chance Bashaw will have a bantam team next season, and maybe even enough for a midget team if the numbers are there,” he noted, “At least half of the kids said they want to play next year, but some have stated only if there is a local team as it’s a huge commitment to drive and they want to also play school sports.”
The opening game at home saw Ponoka jump out to a first period 1-0 lead, something the Stars coaches had worried about coming in.
However, goals from Ethan Taylor and Lukas Sandin near the midway point of the second put the Stars up and the club never trailed the rest of the series. Ponoka netted powerplay marker later in the frame, only to see Bashaw’s Mark Carlson respond with a powerplay goal just past the 16 minute mark of the period.
The teams would trade a pair of goals in the third, with the Stars marks coming off the sticks of Ryan Catterall and Sandin, whose goal with about four and half minutes remaining wound up as the winner.
The game in Ponoka saw Bashaw get out of the gate first, with Taylor scoring in the first and Cole Fankhanel early in the second. Clifford Cardinal put away a powerplay goal late in the second to give the Stars a 3-1 lead and the third was all Bashaw with Fankhanel adding a pair for his hat trick and Taylor netting his second of the game.