BY ZACHARY CORMIER
Blackfalds Wranglers Head Coach Sean Neumeier hasn’t been thrilled with the lack of consistency his team has shown so far this season.
“We lose the first three, win the next four and then lost both games this weekend. So it’s been a little bit of a roller coaster to start the year,” said Neumeier of his team, who at the time of writing hold a 4-5-0 record through the first nine games of the season.
The Wranglers, who came into last weekend’s matchups riding an impressive four game winning streak during which they out-scored their opponents 16-4, ran up against two of the top teams in the Heritage Jr. Hockey League North Division in the Red Deer Vipers and Airdrie Thunder last weekend.
Although they put up a good fight in both games, they weren’t able to come away with a win, dropping a 6-4 decision to the Thunder on Friday night in Airdrie before falling 7-3 to Red Deer at home the following night.
“I think schedule has a bit to do with it. The last two games were tough games. Airdrie and Red Deer are actually pretty good teams. But we outshot Red Deer pretty badly and lost, that was a tough one to take. And then against Airdrie we had a 4-3 lead with seven minutes left and ended up losing that one. So we’re right there and that’s kind of the frustrating part to be 4-5,” Neumeier said, adding that he would like to see a little bit more consistency from his relatively young team.
“We’ve beat some good teams, we’ve lost to some bad teams. We’ve had some other good teams on the ropes. We’ve just got to find a way to finish those things off.”
Already this season the Wranglers, who last season were haunted by injuries throughout the first half of the year, have started to feel the bite of the dreaded injury bug.
Starting goaltender Nick Herrebrugh was sidelined with an injury just two games into the season.
Not long after that, veteran defensemen Brock Boguski, Bryce Marshall, and Spencer Otto all went down with knee injuries, leaving the Wranglers’ blue line without three of its top players.
“We’ve put young guys in some pretty interesting situations. Expecting our young d-men to play 30 minutes a night is a lot to ask, but we really didn’t have any other choice. It’s the way that it’s got to be for now. We’re trying to get back and a little healthier and hopefully Nick gets back in net and we can get a little bit more experience back there,” Neumeier said.
Still, he said, he’s been very impressed with how the team has handled the absences.
“I’ve actually been very impressed with the depth of our forwards. We’ve been getting a lot of shots on net. I think the goals will come, but we’ve been able to roll four lines or three lines.
“We’ve got to keep the puck out of our net, number one. We can’t give up seven goals against Red Deer, that’s unacceptable but it is what it is. We’ve made some big mistakes that everyone seems to capitalize on and if we can clean up that area, I think we’ll be alright.”
The Blackfalds Wranglers are back in action for a pair of games this weekend, including a road matchup with the Three Hills Thrashers on Friday night before playing host to the red hot Okotoks Bisons on Sunday afternoon at the Blackfalds Multiplex. Puck drop on that one is 3:30 p.m.