Hospital visits for sickness, questionable calls, injuries and tough competition all played a role in a recent provincial championship where the Blackfalds Wranglers came in fourth overall.
Coach Sean Neumeler said that the team worked very hard despite some difficult hurdles and that he was still proud of their overall performance through the weekend and the rest of the season.
“It was quite the weekend. They went through a lot. Even the first game, we battled and won. We went through a lot, with guys hurting and being sick. We kept battling and battling, so I’m proud of them,” Neumeler said.
“We put out a good effort, but after Saturday night the guys were pretty heartbroken. It was what it was, and we ended up fourth. I mean, really we came in fourth out of 52 teams in the province so that’s really good. But we do have higher standards than that for next year. It was still pretty impressive though.”
The Wranglers made it through their first game of the tournament with ease, defeating the Stony Plain Flyers 6-3. The following day, they battled with the Peace River Navigators and ended up with a loss of 5-0. The game against Peace River was played with two players out due to sickness, Robin Carlson and Eric Molsen.
Neumeler said that after this loss, the team needed a win or a tie to continue onto semi-finals. Last year, the Wranglers were cut short but this year they managed to squeak through with a tie against the Cold Lake Ice on the Saturday morning of the tournament.
“We moved onto the semi finals, and that’s where the real drama took over. We played North Edmonton, and their team was really good. They actually ended up winning the whole tournament. We played them and we were down 2-0 early on, but we came back and scored two goals to tie it up. They took the lead again and then we tied 3-3. We actually came up at 4-3, with about 12 minutes left in the third. Then they tied it again with about six minutes left,” Neumeler described.
“With about 40 seconds left in the period, one of our guys hit one of their players, his helmet came off and everything. It was a hard hit, but I didn’t think it was anything crazy. He continued on, the horn goes and we went into overtime. It was an unreal game – a lot of tournament feedback said it was the best game of the tournament, and I thought so too. It was a lot of fun coaching that game.”
The hard hit that Neumeler described ended up receiving a complaint leading to a call in the intermission heading into overtime. The coach said that this call was borderline inappropriate and that it blindsided the team.
“What happened was the linesman said he saw a four-minute double minor from that hit I had described and called it in the intermission. The crazy part was he got the wrong guy, and he ended up in the penalty box with us down four minutes. It was actually a travesty for the game. It was really bad, and it was something that no one is going to forget because the call was almost illegal,” he said.
Edmonton used the time with Blackfalds’ penalty to their advantage, taking a win for the game, sending Blackfalds to the bronze medal game.
“It was pretty dramatic and we were all unhappy. There was nothing we could have done. It was a judgement call and it dictated the final game. It was sad because our guys played really, really well. There was no doubt that if we had been playing five on five, we would have won. I just had that feeling and the guys did too. Anyway, the refs came over and blindsided us with that news. Four minutes is a long time,” Neumeler said.
The team lost the bronze medal game and came in fourth out of 52 teams in the province. Neumeler said he was proud regardless of the placement and that the team hopes to challenge their placement next year.