The Blackfalds Wranglers will have to settle for second place this season.
Blackfalds lost the championship series in the Heritage Junior Hockey League to the Okotoks Bisons in game five when the Bisons outscored them 7-5 on March 30. Okotoks had forced game five in the best of five series by defeating Blackfalds 5-4 the night before.
Coach Brian Lenz said that a game five loss in the final series was disappointing for both him and the players, but he was satisfied with how the team finished especially considering how many inexperienced players were on the roster. “As young as we were and as many new guys as we had I think we played extremely well,” said Lenz. “It’s hard to complain when you make it to the end of the league like that.”
Lenz was also pleased that the Wranglers had played much better during the final game in Okotoks than they had the night before at home in Blackfalds.
He said that the final game was a close one, with the Bisons only pulling ahead a few points at the end of the game when the Wranglers pulled their goalie.
After Saturday’s game, Lenz was disappointed that the Wranglers were not able to finish off the series in three games, having been up 2-1.
“That was probably the worst game we played all playoffs,” said Lenz. “We didn’t do a lot right.”
While the Wranglers forced the Bisons to battle for the championship in the final game, the Bisons rose to the challenge and upped their game as well, said Lenz. “We played better, they played better too,” said Lenz. “It was a much faster game (in Okotoks) than it had been in Blackfalds.
“We just made some mistakes on the back end that cost us dearly, took some penalties and couldn’t get back into it.
“Hit a couple goal posts and a cross-bar but those don’t count.”
Lenz also tipped his hat to the Bisons, saying they have a strong roster and played well to win the title.
“Okotoks is a good team, they have a lot of guys that can score goals and we just couldn’t contain them,” said Lenz.
Prior to the start of playoffs, Lenz had said that no series in the league would be easy.
He said that the league was very tight this year, and each series would be a battle. It would seem he was right.
With the young team performing so well this year, next season promises to be a good one as well.
Lenz said that he can never be sure how many players will return each year, but he assumed that the Wranglers would be able to build off this season’s success and experience. “We will have more guys returning next year than we had this year, I’m sure,” said Lenz. “I think we should be as strong or maybe even stronger next year. Our young guys should improve some I would imagine.”
However, the Wranglers aren’t quite done yet. Lenz said the team still has provincials to look forward to, which begin today in Grande Prairie. Blackfalds will have their first matchup, against the host team of Grande Prairie at 8 p.m. tonight.