Wranglers bottle Lightning in regular season finale
Goaltender Nick Lepp of the Stettler Lightning makes a save on Curtis Rangen of the Blackfalds Wranglers as he crashes the crease during Heritage Junior Hockey League action at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena on Sunday. The Wranglers defeated the Lightning 10-1 in their last regular season game before playoffs. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
Lightning didn’t strike twice Sunday, but the Blackfalds Wranglers struck often in a dominant 10-1 win over Stettler to close out the regular season.
After falling to the Red Deer Vipers 6-1 on the road the night before, Wranglers Head Coach Sean Neumeier said the offence was needed, especially heading into Heritage Junior Hockey League playoffs this week.
“Our goal was to come in feeling good, because Wednesday's going to be for real. We've got to start going right now and carry it over to Wednesday,” he said. “The guys did that. They played well.”
For the second straight home game, forward Austin Wilson had the game winner, scoring the first two goals for the Wranglers.
Leading the charge, however, was Wranglers’ forward Ryan Chambers who had a hat trick and a pair of assists. Linemates Brody Bolton, who recently returned from injury, also had a goal and two assists, and Braden Olsen had two goals and two assists in the win.
“It was nice. As a line we were all just flying. We had some good passing. I was lucky to get a few – Chambers had three and Bolton got one so it was a good,” said Olsen. “It was nice to finally get a win at the end of the year just to wrap things up.”
Bronson Spearing and Nathan Kartusch also scored for the Wranglers. Quade Cassidy had the Lightning’s lone goal of the game.
Goatender Lane Brann made 36 saves in the win.
The Wranglers now have a quick turnaround heading into playoffs, with their first game on Wednesday, Feb. 14 at home against the Ponoka Stampeders.
Both coach and players said they need to exercise a bit of caution dealing with the Stamps, who they split the season series 2-2 with.
“We can’t take them for granted. We have to play our best, otherwise they’ll probably sneak a few away from us,” said Olsen.
“They’ll score on you when you’re not paying attention. If you’re not doing the little things like dumping the puck in when you hit the red line, making good passes, finishing your checks, they definitely have a few guys that can put the puck on net so we just have to be wary of that.”
Although staying disciplined has been a weak point for the Wranglers during the season, Olsen says the focus now is on making sure they work at having good passing and covering their defensive zone properly.
“If we do that we have a pretty good shot at going deep this year,” he said.
While the Stamps aren’t the local team, they have a few local players, including rookie James Lea from Clive, Alta., forward Shae Reynolds and Kacey Straub who are both from Lacombe.
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
On Friday, Feb. 16, they’ll play in Ponoka at 8:45 p.m. If needed, the series will be decided in a third game at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 3:30 p.m.