It was a close game, but Blackfalds managed to wrangle one point more than Airdrie to narrowly win its home opener.
On Oct. 5th, the Blackfalds Wranglers won a 5-4 victory over the Airdrie Thunder in their first home game of the season.
Coach Sean Neumeier said he wasn’t impressed with the Wranglers slow start, but was confident they would be able to pick up the pace as the game went on.
“A lot of bounces didn’t go our way for a while,” said Neumeier.
“Our slow starts have actually been one of our Achilles’ Heels lately. We’ve been down in a few games but we always manage to battle back so we are pretty used to that situation unfortunately.”
At the end of the first period, things were still even with the game tied at one.
In the second period however, it looked like Blackfalds may have run into some trouble when Airdrie score two goals in close succession less than halfway into the period.
Neumeier said even though the Wranglers were down by a point at the end of the second with a score of 3-2, there was still plenty of game left for them to make a comeback.
“We usually score more than three, so we weren’t too worried,” said Neumeier.
In the third, Blackfalds wasted little time in evening up the score, scoring their third goal less than three minutes in.
Five minutes later, they pulled ahead of the Thunder with another goal and things looked good for a Wranglers victory.
However, Airdrie was not about to give up so easily, they made Blackfalds work for the victory, tying things up again about 12 minutes into the third and making the Wranglers fight for their fifth and final goal with about six minutes left in the game.
Throughout the game, there were plenty of scuffles behind the play and after the whistle.
Even though the game was so early in the season, players on both teams were at each other’s throats (sometimes literally) as early as midway through the second period.
“Lots of players carry over, right?” said Neumeier. “So they know each other (from previous seasons). It’s just going to get worse.”
In fact, most of the Blackfalds roster is filled with veterans from last year’s team when the Wranglers claimed gold at the provincial championships.
Neumeier said there are only about six rookies on the team’s long roster and all of them are stepping up to do their part and contribute to the team as well.
Blackfalds’ extensive roster is actually one of its biggest strengths, said Neumeier. He said the team has a lot of depth and is able to run four lines most games, as opposed to three like many other teams which prolongs the Wrangler’s endurance.
“We just wear (opponents) down because other teams can’t do that,” said Neumeier.
On the other hand, the Wrangler’s biggest weaknesses are playing out of their own end and the slow starts.
However, Neumeier said the season is young and there is plenty of room for improvement.
“There is lots of rust flying off still,” said Neumeier. “Things are a little sloppy right now for my liking but they will get better.”
In hockey, like all sports, nothing is certain, but Neumeier said it is very possible the Wranglers could have another successful season.
“We have a good chance.”
Neumeier added that another of Blackfalds’ strengths is the incredible team chemistry the players share.
“They are a very tight group,” said Neumeier. “That’s what helped them out last year. No one said we were the most talented team in the province last year but they will fight so hard for each other because they are so close. That helps a lot.”