Wranglers keep second seed playoff hopes alive
Bronson Spearing, #22, of the Blackfalds Wranglers gets into a fight with Brett Campbell of the Airdrie Thunder during Tuesday night Heritage Junior Hockey League action at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena. The Wranglers won 7-3 over the Thunder. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
It was the Blackfalds Wranglers, not the Airdrie Thunder, storming the net with offence Tuesday night, picking up an important 7-3 victory.
Their fifth straight win kept the possibility of earning second seed and having a first round Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) playoff bye alive for the Wranglers, who now sit just two points behind the Thunder for second, with two games to play in the regular season.
Wranglers Head Coach Sean Neumeier said he couldn’t have been happier with his team’s effort in what they viewed as a must-win game.
“We were good - we were better than them start to finish, I thought,” he said. “We scored on the powerplay, got our confidence going. We were just solid tonight.”
Braden Olsen opened the scoring with the man advantage just over three minutes into the game. Midway though the period, Austin Wilson put the Wranglers up 2-0 before the Thunder’s Jacob MacDonald responded.
In the second period, it took Wilson just 31 seconds to find the back of the net again. Landon Siegle and Airdrie’s Jackson Gibson then traded goals, before Wilson scored his third to close out the period.
Siegle added his second in the third, and Shawn Rowe notched their second power play goal of the night. Airdrie scored once more, and engaged in some fisticuffs, but neither would turn the tide in their favour or knock victory out of the Wranglers’ hands.
“That team can score four in a hurry so (a comeback) was never out of reach. We had to keep the pedal to the metal,” said Neumeier. “You can’t let up on a team that has that much firepower. We didn’t really, and they started to lose it at the end, which happens.”
While Siegle had the game winner, Wilson was at the centre of what was a big divisional win for the team, scoring give points, including a hat trick and a pair of assists.
“Willie’s been really good lately. He and Siegle have found a lot of chemistry together. They’re using each other really well, Neumeier said. “He came out and was inspired today. He must’ve smelled a big game and he had a big game.”
Wilson, himself, was a little more modest about his performance, crediting linemates for his success, primarily Siegle, the HJHL’s leading goalscorer and only one to top 40 goals this season so far.
“I have to thank my linemates for that - good feeds, got open,” he said. “I was just in the right place at the right time and scored when needed.”
As for any message he wanted to send to the Airdrie Thunder?
“See you in the playoffs,” he said.
The Wranglers also won 7-3 against the Mountainview Colts on Friday, Feb. 2. Bronson Spearing, Ryan Chambers, Dylan Scheunert, Braden Olsen and Brett Westin scored, while Braden Bystrom and Curtis Rangen added shorthanded goals.
The Wranglers now only have two regular season games left - Saturday, Feb. 10 on the road against the Red Deer Vipers at Servus Arena, and Sunday, Feb. 11 against the Stettler Lightning at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena at 3:30 p.m.
Shots on goal were 40-38 in favour of the Airdrie Thunder...The Wranglers were two for four on the power play while the Thunder were zero for three...A total of 40 minutes worth of penalties was doled out in just the final four minutes of play. Wrangler Bronson Spearing and Thunder Brett Campbell both had 17 minutes each including 10-minute game misconducts, five minute major for fighting. Campbell had the extra two for instigating, while Spearing had two for roughing.