If the Blackfalds Wranglers want to climb up the Heritage Junior Hockey League standings, they’re going to want to fix their starts.
In two games straight, the Wranglers allowed their opponents to control the first half of the game and found themselves playing catch up in the latter stages. While it worked in a 3-2 shootout win against the Ponoka Stampeders last Wednesday, it cost them the extra point Sunday at the Blackfalds Multi-plex Arena against the southern division’s last-placed Lomond Lakers.
Wranglers Coach Brian Lenz didn’t sugar coat his frustration post game.
“I just told them – if our starts aren’t better than that, we aren’t going to win many games this year,” he said. “You can’t fool around for half the game and expect to win in this league. I don’t care how weak the teams are – they look at the standings and see this team way down below, but we’re not that far ahead of them. I don’t know why we’re starting like that.”
In the first period, the Wranglers came out a little hesitant, seemingly content with allowing their opponents to outshoot them 14-11. While they opened the scoring on the power play thanks to Taite Opdendries flipping the puck over the right pad of Lakers’ netminder Brady Newton, the lead only lasted about five minutes. After killing off a penalty, the Lakers’ Tyler Rohl caught Blackfalds flat-footed after it expired, and deked goaltender Maxim Currie out of position to tie the game.
In the second period, the Wranglers seemed to be more in the game, and took over in the shots department. However, while they had several opportunities to reclaim the lead, they failed to capitalize, and midway through the frame, Rohl didn’t make the same mistake and got his second goal of the game to put the Lakers ahead 2-1/
By the third period, the Wranglers were dominating in possession – firing 23 shots on net compared to just four for what appeared to be a gassed Lakers team. Lakers goaltender Newton, however, hit his stride, and allowed just one more goal at the 11:33 mark when Zachary Zaparniuk finally slipped a puck behind him to tie the game.
“We had a lot of chances – how many open nets did we miss? But those don’t count,” said Lenz. “We didn’t skate for the first half of the game and then their goaltender got hot and we couldn’t get it by him.”
In the extra frame, the Wranglers continued to press, and almost succeeded with their late comeback routine as Braden Olsen thought he chipped the puck past Newton. However, Newton gloved the puck on the line, and with no referee in position and no video replay to rule what Blackfalds believed was a good goal, it was waived off.
In the shootout, Newton continued his hot streak, stopping all three of the Wranglers shooters – Zachary Zaperniuk, Opdendries and Olsen – while rookie Wranglers goaltender Maxim Currie stopped two out of three shots, with Clayton Billyard winning the game for Lomond.
“Currie played well – you can’t fault him on any of the goals, “ said Lenz. “Our guys just didn’t look like they were mentally prepared today. Some of our top players didn’t look like our top players out there.
“We lost a lot of guys last year so we still haven’t quite gelled yet. I think it’ll come,” he said. “The talent is there – we just need a few more shots and a little more desire.”
The Wranglers will play three games in five nights over the course of the next week, starting on the road Friday, Nov. 2 against the Cochrane, before returning home Sunday, Nov. 4 to play the High River Flyers at 3:30 p.m. and the Mountainview Colts Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m.