Blackfalds Wranglers look to step up their game

The Blackfalds Wranglers have been struggling to put the puck in the net this season.

The Blackfalds Wranglers have been struggling to put the puck in the net this season.

After a string of injuries that saw them lose several of their top scorers, the Wranglers have been caught in limbo in regards to their scoring.

“We’re just not scoring goals, bottom line,” said Head Coach Sean Neumeier after a 4-1 loss to the Mountain View Colts in Blackfalds on Tuesday night.

After a fairly strong start to the season that saw them defeat the Airdrie Thunder (17-6-1) 8-1 in their season opener, the Wranglers have had just an 8-9-3 record, not exactly reminiscent of the team that went all the way to the league final last season.

“You can’t win if you score one goal, that sums it up. Our power play is 0-100 it feels like. I don’t know the last time we scored a power play goal, it was probably three or four games ago. It makes a big difference,” Neumeier said.

In fact, the last time Blackfalds scored on the power play was on Dec. 2nd against Ponoka. Since then, Blackfalds has not scored on the power play, including a not too great 0-11 performance in Strathmore last Saturday night.

Blackfalds is currently tied with Three Hills for the lowest goal differential in the league for teams with winning records at just plus-nine.

Neumeier said that offense will come with time. “It’ll come. We’re playing with three lines, we’re playing short, we’re playing hurt. Christmas can’t come fast enough.

“Once Christmas comes and we get two weeks to rest and recoup, well, we’ll see where we’re at. It’s hard to address where you’re at when we don’t have a clue.”

After this week’s losses, the team falls to just a .500 win percentage.

But the season isn’t without its bright spots.

Veteran forwards Bryce Boguski, Wally Samson and Andrew McLennan are all scoring at a point per game pace, which for a team that is struggling offensively is huge. The team has also been competitive in games.

Tuesday night’s game was a good example, as Blackfalds not only kept pace with the HJHL North division leading Colts, they out shot them 32-30.

“We played the top team in the league and we were right with them. Shorthanded. So you can’t tell me that we’re not right there,” Neumeier said.

Realistically, Blackfalds is still in a good position to challenge for a playoff spot. They’re sitting in the fifth and final playoff spot in their division and with Stettler (6-16-2) and Ponoka (6-15-1) floundering at the bottom of the league, it’s unlikely the Wranglers will miss the playoffs.

“All you have to do in this league is make the playoffs. Everybody’s so close. Anybody can beat anybody this year so you make the playoffs you’ve got a 50-50 chance to win the league,” Neumeier said.

The team’s goaltending has also been solid.

The tandem of Nicolas Herrebrugh and Klay Munro have posted save percentages of .897 and .902 respectively.

“They’ve been doing their jobs. They’ve got good numbers but it’s the wins and losses that we need,” Neumeier said, adding it’s tough for a goalie to win games without offensive support.

“There’s not much you can say when you’re only scoring one goal. It’s not their fault. They can’t score goals too, so until we put up four or five it’s never their fault.”

Saturday night’s game against Mountain View was one of those games.

The Wranglers out shot the Colts 32-30, putting on a strong showing in the second half of the game, but weren’t able to beat Colts’ goaltender Jake Carlson. Many of their shots in the third period in particular were not high quality scoring chances.

On the other end of the ice, Blackfalds goalie Munro held his own, but the Colts’ offense is one of those that is just so explosive that you really have to out-score them rather than hope to contain them.

While the answer for the Wranglers may not seem clear, Neumeier said the team is just going to ride it out.

“We’re going to get healthy. Eventually we’re going to get healthy. It’s a matter of time. We’ve got five cards so we can add five guys yet too. So we’ve got lots of time to add guys. It’ll help. We need some guys we’re playing shorthanded all the time so we’re looking and we’re trying to get healthy.”

Neumeier added a couple of the team’s offensive threats are close to being ready.

“We’re close. We’ve got guys that are getting really close to coming back.”

Next up for the Wranglers is a Saturday night showdown against the third place Red Deer Vipers. That game kicks off at 8 p.m. at the Red Deer Arena.