The Blackfalds Wranglers continue to dominate the Heritage Junior Hockey League as they took down the Red Deer Vipers 6-2 at the Red Deer Arena.
The Wranglers have a stunning seasonal record of 34 wins, two losses and two overtime losses. They are scores ahead in points, leading the northern division with 70 points. Second in the league is Airdrie with 48.
In a best of seven series, the Wranglers came out on top with four wins to knock Red Deer out of the running. Blackfalds now will enter into the North Division Finals against the Mountainview Colts.
Coach Sean Neumeier was beaming after the performance at the Red Deer arena, proud of his team and excited to move on.
“The team is really excited – it’s been a big rivalry for them against Red Deer. Two years ago, they beat us when we were up two – nothing and they came back for the win, so it was pretty important that we took care of business tonight,” Neumeier said. “We wore them down the best we could. We tried to get pucks deep and just wear them down. We have more depth than they do and we knew that, so the way things were going I liked the chances. In second and third period, we really got going.”
The Red Deer Vipers managed to take the lead in the first period with two goals against one from Blackfalds. In the second and third periods however, the Vipers were less successful as Blackfalds players worked hard to keep the puck in their opponents’ zone.
The Wranglers paved their way to victory with careful passing, quick skating and attentive manoeuvring.
With just over 40 shots on the Vipers goal, the Wranglers were putting in work for the win.
The Vipers were losing patience as tensions grew in the game, leading to a number of penalties for roughing and fighting.
“Our season has been pretty successful. We went 34 and two, and it was nice that we made quick work here. If we win four more games, we can get to provincials again and try to defend our provincial championship title, and that’s important as well,” said Neumeier.
“We went to Grande Prairie last year and won provincials there and went to Abbottsford for the Western Championships. That’s kind of our goal – we want to get back and try to repeat what we got last year. That would be nice.”
If the Wranglers can defend their provincial title, they will go on to the Western Canadian Junior B Championships to play for the Keystone Cup.
Last year, the Wranglers won the title of provincial champions, but came in third in the running for the Keystone Cup.
The Wranglers have been consistent in staying at the top of the league for the past six years. This year will be the seventh that they have earned this same success.
“The nice part of this year is that lots of these guys are back. We had a young team last year and it was almost surprising we got as far as we did. Lots of those guys are back this year so they’ll rely a lot on their experience to get through. That’s probably our best tool right now – they’ve all been there and they know what it takes to win. I think that showed throughout these playoffs – they got ahead and stuck with it,” said Neumeier.
The Wranglers will have a few days of rest before heading back into the North Division Final game where they hope to earn the chance to defend their title as provincial champions.