Thunder put an end to Wranglers season
Ryan Chambers of the Blackfalds Wranglers tries to slip a puck past Airdrie Techmation Thunder goaltender C.J. Wedenig during Game 4 of the HJHL north division semifinal at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena on Tuesday night. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
The Airdrie Techmation Thunder lowered the boom on the Blackfalds Wranglers Tuesday night with a 4-1 victory that officially ended their season.
Although the Wranglers took the lead in the second on a Landon Siegle goal, the Thunder scored four straight unanswered goals for the win, and their third victory in the best-of-five Heritage Junior Hockey League north division semifinal series.
“They have a lot of firepower. We knew that going into the series. They can score goals and they outscored us,” said Wranglers Head Coach Sean Neumeier. “I was proud of them. That’s two good teams - some you win, some you lose.
“They put in a good effort tonight.”
The Wranglers won the first game of the series on the road 3-2 last Wednesday, but dropped Game 2 6-1. Sunday’s Game 3 was a narrow 5-4 loss, and Tuesday night’s 4-1 defeat at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena was officially their last until October.
While the Wranglers didn’t score more than once, they made sure they went down swinging. McKoy Kahlert, Ryan Chambers, Spencer Otto and Braden Bystrom all received five-minute fighting majors in the third period, along with automatic game misconducts.
Goaltender Rylan Bardick swapped in for Brann for the final few minutes after the latter goalie engaged in a bout of fisticuffs with the opposition as well. Shawn Rowe was also given a misconduct.
Amid the expected disappointment of postseason defeat, and players saying goodbye to teammates - some for the last time - there was an additional farewell.
Neumeier announced he will not be returning behind the Wranglers’ bench next season to focus on family.
“I love these guys to pieces, but it’s too much to be away. It’s a stressful job,” he said. “If anyone thinks they can do it I encourage them to give it a try. I love this organization - it’s a great place for a young player, it’s a great place to be.”
In his five years as the bench boss for the team, Neumeier has seen the team win a provincial championship, a bronze medal at the Keystone Cup. They also lost in the provincial semis in a heartbreaking overtime loss, and just last year saw a miraculous comeback against the Stettler Lightning where the team scored four goals with three minutes left in the game to take the series.
“That one I’ll never forget. There’s lots of great memories,” he said. “We had a lot of success. I had a great record so I’m really happy with that.”
Coaching, of course, was more than just the on-ice product. While there was success there, he says it was a goal to help players be more off the ice as well.
“You’ve got to make these kids good people, too. You have to hold them accountable when they need to be held accountable, praise them when they need to be praised,” he said. “It’s important - I think that everyone who plays sports comes out with an upper hand because they know how to take a challenge, interact with people, take criticism.
“I try to give them the most life experience and demand the most out of them as I can possibly get.”