Blackfalds Wranglers struggle to find net against Stampeders

Kyle Imesch of the Blackfalds Wranglers battles with Kacey Straub of the Ponoka Stampeders during HJHL action Tuesday at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena. The Wranglers were shutout 3-0. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The Blackfalds Wranglers tried their hand at being stormtroopers against the Ponoka Stampeders.

They fired a lot of shots, but each missed its intended target in a three-goal shutout loss in front of the home crowd Tuesday. Their previous effort – a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Okotoks Bisons – was a similar tale, much to the chagrin of Coach Brian Lenz.

“That’s 74 shots and we’ve got one goal in the last two games,” he said. “We hit five goalposts last game, one this game – we just can’t seem to find the net.

“We didn’t give up much, but every time we did, they scored. We just give up bad chances. I don’t know what the answer is, but if you can’t score goals, you can’t win hockey games. It’s that simple.”

They started off the game in what originally looked like an evenly-matched battle, with both teams coming out of the first period goalless and tied in shots with 12 apiece.

The second period saw the Wranglers dominate on the shot clock, launching 10 pucks on net compared to just three for the opposition. At 7:47, however, Braden Klessens beat newcomer goaltender Danyon Lorencz to give Ponoka a 1-0 lead that would last until the third period.

Once again, the Wranglers edged their opponents in shots, but Ponoka made theirs count. About four minutes into the period, Stampeder Wade Lightburn sent a bouncing puck towards the net, and teammate Kieran Bulloch potted the rebound to increase their lead to 2-0. Austin Hunt, who hails from Blackfalds himself, added a third and final goal three minutes later. The goal would be Hunt’s first in what was his HJHL debut, and it would also ensure the Wranglers faced their second straight home loss in as many games.

“The game Sunday, we should’ve won. We outplayed (Okotoks) bad – we outshot them two-to-one. This game, it was like we just weren’t mentally prepared for it,” said Lenz. “They look at the standings and think they’re behind us, but they don’t realize we’re not that good of a hockey team right now.

“We’re missing a couple of key players, our lines aren’t together, but there’s no excuse. We’ve got to find ways to get the puck in the net.”

The Wranglers will have one attempt to do just that before Christmas when they take on the Red Deer Vipers on the road at Servus Arena this Saturday, Dec. 22. If not, their next try won’t happen until 2019, when they face the Airdrie Techmation Thunder Jan. 4, before returning to home ice Tuesday, Jan. 8 to host the Mountainview Colts.