BY ZACHARY CORMIER
Rookie goaltender Lane Brann has been a revelation for the Blackfalds Wranglers since taking over the starter role earlier this season.
The Innisfail product has had a number of stellar performances so far this year, but none may top the impressive display the young backstopper put on against the Red Deer Vipers in an important matchup earlier this week in Blackfalds.
“He was the first second and third star for us tonight for sure,” said Wranglers Head Coach Sean Neumeier of Brann’s 43 save performance at the Blackfalds Multiplex on Tuesday night, which helped his team squeak out a 3-2 victory.
In what can only be described as grand larceny, the 17-year-old keeper stopped all but two of the 45 shots directed his way, including a penalty shot in the final minute of the game, to steal the win for his team.
“It was pretty good. I had some help from my defensemen. We had a full effort from the team. Without three goals we wouldn’t have won the game,” Brann said after the game.
Still, the Wranglers didn’t have the best start.
“We came out like crap in the first two periods, we had 10 shots in two periods. That never happens, normally we get 10 shots in 1o minutes. So it was disappointing the first two periods and he held us in and kept it close and kept us within one,” Neumeier said.
While the game was even enough through the first 10 minutes, it quickly became apparent that the Vipers, who the Wranglers are chasing in the HJHL standings, were on a mission.
The visiting team directed 11 shots at the Blackfalds net in the first period alone, but it took them until the final minute of the opening frame before Damien Chopek finally squeaked one past Brann to give the visitors a 1-0 lead after one.
They didn’t waste much time in the second, though.
Just two minutes in Drew Joslin jammed a rebound into the net to extend the lead to 2-0.
Blackfalds started showing signs of life just under 10 minutes into the second period as Landon Siegle potted a power play marker to cut Red Deer’s lead to 2-1.
“We took advantage of every opportunity they gave us; and they didn’t give us much,” Neumeier said.
The home team came alive in the third period, though, scoring a pair of goals to squeak away with the win.
The opportunistic nature that Blackfalds had been showing came in handy in the third.
Just 30 seconds into the final frame Garrett Glasman scored to tie the game up for the home team before Brody Bolton netted the eventual game winner with just three minutes remaining.
Shortly afterwards, Red Deer took a four-minute high sticking penalty that should have all but sealed the deal. And it looked like it did, too, until the final 30 seconds.
During a mad scramble in front of the Blackfalds net, one of the Wranglers’ defenders reached back and covered the puck with his hand inside of his own crease resulting in a penalty shot.
But once again, Brann came up huge for the home team and slammed the door on Red Deer’s Kale Lapointe to seal the victory.
“The last few minutes I would have done things a little different there, but we survived and we got it done,” Neumeier said, adding that although the team probably didn’t deserve to come out on top, a win is still a win.
“That’s a big win for us regardless if we deserved it or not. That’s two points that we needed and that we gained on Red Deer tonight.”
At the time of writing, Blackfalds sits just two points back of the Vipers in the HJHL Northern Division standings.
The victory also means the Wranglers finish with a 7-2 record in the the month of November, which could prove significant later down the line.
“I think everyone’s coming together. It’s later in the year and we’re all kind of clicking a little bit better,” said Brann, who has been a big part of that success himself.
In 16 games with the local Heritage Junior Hockey League team this season, the 17-year-old backstopper has<span clas