Wranglers blanked by Bisons
Tyler Bell of the Blackfalds Wranglers puts pressure on Brennan Fuoco of the Okotoks Bisons during Sunday evening Heritage Junior Hockey League action at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena. The Wranglers were shutout 4-0. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
The Blackfalds Wranglers failed to solve the Okotoks Bisons netminder Devin Reagan Sunday as they were blanked 4-0.
The loss marked their third straight at home, however, Head Coach Sean Neumeier said he couldn’t complain about his team’s effort.
“That’s the thing - we did not play a bad game. We put 44 shots on net. Things didn't go in for us and they got bounces we were getting at the start of the year,” he said.
“I think we had a chance to win tonight easily, but it just didn’t happen. (Reagan) played well. Kudos to that goalie. A 44 save shutout is impressive.”
For much of the first period, the game appeared like it might go in the Wranglers favour. They led in shots throughout the game, and managed to herd the Bisons away from their own net.
With just 30 seconds remaining in the period, however, Nicholas Murrell opened the scoring for Okotoks to put them up 1-0.
That goal would be the only spark the Bisons needed for their offence, scoring again just 1:28 into the second period. Murrell would strike again on the power play just five minutes later.
Frustration began to boil over with just over two minutes left to go in the middle frame, with more than a couple players exchanging fists. Bronson Spearing and Landon Siegle both received game misconducts and did not return for the Wranglers, while the Bisons’ Dallas Otto also received a game misconduct for fighting.
The third period brought a few more chances for the Wranglers to ruin their opponents shutout bid, but they failed to capitalize.
To make matters worse, goaltender Rylan Bardick went down awkwardly after a save, seemingly favouring his left leg. He remained in the net for several minutes until Joel Deeprose scored the dagger for the Bisons and Bardick was finally pulled.
“He’s hurt,” said Neumeier. “I don’t know the extent of it, but it’s not good. Hopefully it’s nothing too, too bad, but he’s not healthy.”
Lane Brann was perfect in relief, facing just five shots in just under 13 minutes of play.
While the effort was there for the Wranglers, they’ll look for a better outcome in their upcoming road trip where they’ll face the league-leading Airdrie Thunder (14-6-2) on Friday, before taking on the Medicine Hat Cubs (7-12-0) Saturday.
“We've got a big game in Airdrie - that's a huge divisional game - then Medicine Hat where we need to get points,” said Neumeier. “Losses hurt. We can’t lose two in a row.”
Still at the midway point of the season, he said he was happy with how his team has played overall and likes their chances going forward.
“We're in the hunt. That's all you can ask for. We're an elite team in this league,” he said. “It's going to be hard to reel in Red Deer but we play them three more times. We have a lot more opportunity,....we have a lot of work to do. I think we have a chance for sure.”
The Wranglers will also play on the road against Ponoka on Dec. 16, before returning home to face Medicine Hat again on Sunday, Dec. 17 at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena. Puck drop is 3:30 p.m.
Their final game before Christmas will be on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at home when they take on the Three Hills Thrashers at 7:30 p.m.
The Wranglers dropped from first to third in the HJHL’s power rankings after a November that saw them alternating wins and losses for a 4-4-0 record...Sunday’s loss dropped them to third in the division and fifth in the league with 26 points, behind Airdrie (30 points), Okotoks (30 points), Red Deer (29 points) and High River (27 points)...They have the second best goals against average in the league with 4.26.