Eleven straight unanswered goals propelled the Blackfalds Senior Wranglers to their first win at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena.
Following a 4-2 victory over the Westlock Warriors Saturday night on the road, the team came home to soundly defeat the Bonnyville Sr. Pontiacs 12-3 and finally string together a few wins after a rough start to their North Central Hockey League season.
Wranglers Head Coach Damon Dreeshen said the difference was his team’s resiliency, dedication and attitude.
“I’m very happy with the weekend. The guys, they’ve been working really hard the past few weeks and we were really making it a focal point to try and stay positive when we were having some tough games. We started finding the net and we’re just really happy,” he said.
“Our goal at the start of the year was to be a 0.500 team for our first season. This win puts us there and we’re hoping to keep that going.”
Judging by their first period of play, however, that wasn’t where the game was originally headed.
Outshot 20-10 in the opening 20 minutes, they surrendered the first goal to Pontiac Courage Omeasoo just 3:26 into the frame. While Wrangler Dallas Goodrunning would get the goal back at the other end of the rink three minutes later, sending the puck through traffic from the right-side hash marks, Denis Cadrin would put the Pontiacs up 2-1 on the man advantage midway through the period, and Logan Davies made it 3-1 just a few minutes later in a scramble in front of Wrangler goaltender Adam Bartko.
With a late ejection to Wrangler Teagan Kooman for a hit to the head, it looked like the Wranglers would once again be on the losing end of the game, however, they weathered the ensuing five-minute major, and the second period saw a more energized team take to the ice.
“They had a little trouble finding their legs early. They played a real tough game last night in Weslock – it was a rough one – and they didn’t get home until late, so I think it took them some time to find their legs,” said Dreeshen. “When they finally got some energy going, they didn’t look back.”
Justin Lowry brought the Wranglers within one less than five minutes into the period, and after that the team sent puck after puck towards Bonnyville netminder Eric Szudor, who was playing in his second game after facing the Lacombe AA Generals Saturday night. Finally, a series of penalties to the opposition opened up just enough room for the Wranglers to find their scoring stride – with Nate Higgins tying the game, followed by a Eric Moltzahn bomb from the point. Anthony Pickering then beat Szudor on his blocker side.
The Wranglers added another seven goals in the third, including Higgins’ second of the game four minutes into the frame, followed by Lowry’s second on the powerplay two minutes later. Sawicki scored twice – his first would chase Szudor from the net to be replaced by backup Drew Fleury – but the scoring still continued with Dusten Villeneuve adding a goal, followed by Goodrunning’s second of the game. Brady Porter finally wrapped up the scoring with a power play marker with 48 seconds left.
Shots on goal were 54-44 for the Wranglers, while Bartko made 41 saves.
The Wranglers’ next game is back on the road Nov. 30 at the Daysland Arena at 7:30 p.m. They’ll have another bye week, before heading to Devon to play the Barons Dec. 13, before returning to the Bentley Arena to host the NCHL’s top team in the Morinville Kings Dec. 15 at 3:30 p.m.
“The last time we went to Morinville we actually played really good – we didn’t have a full team but the guys played a really smart defensive game and I think if they keep taking care of our end first, that gives us a good chance,” said Dreeshen. “The attention to detail, the little things, are what’s going to help us against a good team like that. We just can’t take a shift off, play a total game and make sure we’re playing really stingy defence.”
Their final game before the Christmas break will be on Dec. 21 against the Lacombe AA Generals at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex in Lacombe. Game time is 8 p.m.