Blackfalds Wranglers fall short of upsetting Vipers

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Blackfalds came close to wrangling two points from the Red Deer Vipers Tuesday night, but only managed to steal one after falling in the shootout.

Despite leading for much of the game, their central Alberta rivals tied the game late in the third en route to handing the Wranglers a 5-4 shootout loss in front of the hometown crowd at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena.

Although they came up short, there were few complaints from Coach Brian Lenz.

“That was a good game, an excellently played game. We just gave a few bad ones away and it came back to haunt us,” he said. “But they skated well – if we can play like that every game, we’ll make it by a couple rounds in the playoffs.”

After thrashing Three Hills last week 8-1, the Wranglers dropped a 5-1 decision against Strathmore Friday. It was their goal to bounce back against Red Deer – and they almost did.

Just 20 seconds into the game, Austin Lightning beat Viper goaltender Justin Travis to give the Wranglers a 1-0 lead.

About seven minutes later, the Vipers’ Keaton Sawicki tapped home a shorthanded rebound tie the game, but the tie was short lived as Kyle Imesch would once again put the Wranglers ahead and give the team a 2-1 lead heading into the second.

Early in the second, Taite Opdendries scored on the man advantage, which was followed by Braidon Westin beating Travis glove side midway through the period.

Although the Vipers began to show frustration on the ice, Red Deer got one back with less than three minutes left, cutting the Wrangler lead to 4-2 after 40 minutes.

Momentum shifted slightly in the third, however, after the Wranglers crashed Travis’ crease, and the Viper goaltender was pulled in favour of backup Justin Anderson. Blackfalds was hard pressed to find the mesh behind him, but at the other end, the Vipers beat goaltender Danyon Lorencz twice, including the game tying goal with 3:58 in regulation – one Lorencz wasn’t happy about.

“Danny said the net was off and it bothered him a bit, but we haven’t got video replay so it counts,” said Lenz. “We didn’t pick up our man up coming back, but we played well…and when it gets to a shootout, it’s anybody’s game.”

The extra frame didn’t solve anything, forcing the game to a shootout. Ryan Vandervlis and Justin Paarup both scored for the Vipers, while Austin Lawson was the lone goal scorer for the Wranglers, with Austin Lightning and Kyle Imesch denied by Anderson.

“We had a couple of good scoring chances, we just didn’t bury them. That kid’s a good goaltender – if we could’ve got one more by him, we would’ve won, but that’s the way it goes,” said Lenz.

“At least now they (the Wranglers) know they can play with the top teams.”

The Wranglers, now 9-17-6,  will now once again go up against the struggling 1-29-1 Three Hills team on the road, before setting their sights on exacting revenge for previous defeats  against the 15-11-6 Stettler Lightning Sunday at home. Puck drop is 3:30 p.m.