Lacombe AA Generals route Blackfalds Wranglers

Eric Moltzahn, #6, of the Blackfalds Senior Wranglers knocks Taylor Mulder of the Lacombe AA Generals off the puck during NCHL action at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The Lacombe AA Generals finally overtook the Blackfalds Senior Wranglers in the North Central Hockey League standings.

Separated by a single point, the two central Alberta rivals met at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex Saturday for what promised to be a battle for sixth spot, but ended up being a lopsided 8-3 victory for the Generals.

“It was good – we talked in the room about getting on them early,” said Reed Watts, who had the second goal of the game. “They’re a good team. If you let them stick around, they’ll build momentum and it’ll cost you, so it was really important we got on them early.”

It took the Generals all of a minute and 28 seconds to kill any early momentum from the Wranglers, with captain Jared Williams finding the back of the net. Less than three minutes later Watts doubled the score.

While they would continue to put pressure on the Wranglers, their next goal wouldn’t come until 3:53 left in the frame when Josh Smith sent a shot towards the net that fooled goaltender Cody Nicolay, who would be pulled before the end of the period in favour of Adam Gingras. The damage wouldn’t end, however, as Taylor Mulder scored with eight seconds left on the clock, setting up a powerplay screen that would see his team head to the dressing room up 4-0.

In the second, the Wranglers pressed a bit more, but penalty trouble midway through the frame put them further behind, first with a goal by Jagger Bowles, and then an easy tap-in off a rebound by the team’s leading scorer in Kyle Maas to go up 6-0 on the 5-on-3.

Just 27 seconds into the third, Chance Abbott made it 7-0, and about a minute later Kevin Vandenhoven increased the Generals’ lead to 8-0, with the team not even bothering to celebrate the latter goal with so much of a lead.

Shortly after Spencer Scott finally broke the shutout for the Wranglers, and the team started to show some energy again. While Garrett Glasman and Shane Goodrunning would each add another goal for the Wranglers after that, it did little to change the result.

“It was a big game – we were one point separated in the standings, so we really wanted this one. We just came out flat and I don’t know why that happened,” said Wranglers Head Coach Devon Dreeshen.

“The guys were kind of ticked off (in the third), so they came out and played with a little more jam, little more physicality, but playing for 20 minutes in a hockey game isn’t going to get it done. They’ve got to do that right off the hop and play with more intensity and maybe we would’ve had a better result tonight. The effort just wasn’t there at all.”

Jagger Bowles of the Lacombe AA Generals is taken down along the boards by Braedon Grant of the Blackfalds Senior Wranglers during NCHL action on Dec. 21, 2019. Bowles was injured on the play. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Lacombe came away with the victory, but they did suffer a loss of a key player as Jagger Bowles was taken down by Wranglers’ defender Braedon Grant along the end boards with 41 seconds left, and landed awkwardly on his left leg and had to be taken off the ice and to hospital.

“Jags is a core guy. Anybody goes down in that room really hurts us, but Jags has been with us three years now. He’s a great guy…Hopefully he’s not out long term,” said Watts.

Generals goaltender Mackenzie Engel made 29 saves in the win, while Nicolay made 12 saves in the first period, and Gingras made 26 for the Wranglers.

Both teams are now looking forward to the Christmas break, especially the Wranglers, whose last win came Nov. 24 against the last-placed Bonnyville St. Pontiacs.

The Wranglers last win came about a month ago on Nov. 24 against the last-placed Bonnyville Sr. Pontiacs.

“When we get back at it we just need a fresh start, some good practices to get our legs going again,” said Dreeshen. “We just need to get back to work and take care of our own end.”

The goal for the Generals, now 5-7-0-0, is to get to .500 and in the top half of the league standings. They’re just four points back of third and six from second spot, and Head Coach Jordan Koopmans believes the key will be to stay out of the box.

“Going into the break, we can’t really afford to take any games off, especially being neck and neck in the standings. These are the games we have to win,” he said.

“We are most effective when we can roll all four lines and we just play hard hockey and wear down on the other team. When we have to shorten the bench and we get into penalty trouble, that’s where we run into difficulties.”

Both teams will return to action Saturday Jan. 4, 2020, with Blackfalds heading on the road to face Bonnyville, and Lacombe hosting Fort Saskatchewan at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex at 7:45 p.m.

Blackfalds will also play Fort Saskatchewan on the road on Sunday, Jan. 5 in a game rescheduled from November.

abarrett@postmedia.com
Twitter.com/Ashli_28
Twitter.com/LacombeGlobe

Lacombe AA Generals goaltender Mackenzie Engel gets some help from teammate Patrick Turville in stopping Teagan Kooman of the Blackfalds Senior Wranglers during NCHL action at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Patrick Turville of the Lacombe AA Generals battles with Chris Couper of the Blackfalds Senior Wranglers during NCHL action at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

Kyran Karol, #7, and Eric Moltzahn, #6, of the Blackfalds Senior Wranglers knock Taylor Mulder of the Lacombe AA Generals off the puck during NCHL action at the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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