Airdrie Thunder rattle Blackfalds Wranglers in 8-2 route

Quaid Hartley of the Blackfalds Wranglers tries to keep the puck away from Caleb Reed of the Airdrie Techmation Thunder during Heritage Junior Hockey League action at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Wranglers lost 8-2 to the Thunder. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The Blackfalds Wranglers were left a rattled by a storm of offence created by the Airdrie Techmation Thunder.

On Sunday afternoon, the Wranglers were routed 8-2 by their opponents in Heritage Junior Hockey League action at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena.

The loss isn’t their worst of the year, but it’s perhaps their most frustrating as the Wranglers controlled play for all but a few minutes of the first period.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever coached a team in all my life that’s been that fragile,” said Coach Brian Lenz. “We did everything so well in the first 15 minutes. We totally dominated – we had a 2-0 lead, but this has been our problem all year. We’re so fragile that we just fold after a couple of goals.

“It was a frustrating game to watch. In the second period, ee might as well have stayed in the dressing room.”

Coming off an 11-0 victory over the 1-15-0 Three Hills Thrashers last Thursday, the Wranglers had some jump to start the game. Just over four minutes into the opening frame, Taite Opdendries found the back of the net, and about 10 minutes later he added a second goal.

However, a shot from Thunder Dane Bennett-Nimijean with just over four minutes to play in the first signalled the start of an offensive storm. Two minutes later, Michael Dubois tied the game, and with just two seconds left in the period, Jason Wenzel added a third goal, giving the Thunder a 3-2 lead and shaking the Wranglers confidence enough that they wouldn’t be able to recover.

Zane Bennett of the Blackfalds Wranglers battles with Kirkland Spencer of the Airdrie Techmation Thunder in the neutral zone during Heritage Junior Hockey League action at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena on Sunday afternoon. The Wranglers lost 8-2 to the Thunder. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

In the second period, they allowed four straight unanswered goals – a shorthanded tally by Zachary Giroux three and a half minutes in, followed by a trio of power play goals, including two more from Dubois and the third from Jackson Gibson.

The Thunder clapped once more in the third period, with a second shorthanded goal from inside the circle courtesy Brayden Dunn.

The loss dropped the Wranglers to 4-8-4 on the season – fourth-last in the league.

While it would be easy to point the figure at the loss of several key veteran players who left to vie for a chance at a provincial championship with the Wetaskiwin Icemen, including Ryan Chambers, Braden Bystrom, and Landon Siegle, Lenz says the losses aren’t because the team doesn’t have the skill to win.

“We have a lot of new guys, but still, there’s no excuse for that. They’re a talented team,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s mental or if they want to win so bad and try so hard they get bowled over. I really don’t know why this team is so fragile.”

As for the key to move forward, or at the very least towards a 60-minute effort, Lenz said he didn’t know what the answer was.

“I just asked them that – nobody answered me, so I’m not sure,” he said. “I’ve got to do some thinking on that. I’m lost for words.”

The team will practice, and then have another crack at coming together as a team Saturday in Red Deer against the Vipers. Their next home game will be on Tuesday, Nov. 27 against the Stettler Lightning. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.

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