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Wranglers on ropes after loss

The Blackfalds Wranglers couldn’t handle success Sunday.
Wranlgers Chad Muth tries to keep the puck away from Oilers Dylan Kendrick

Bisons 7 Wranglers 6

BLACKFALDS — The Blackfalds Wranglers couldn’t handle success Sunday.

Tied 3-3 with the Okotoks Bisons and already down 1-0 in the best-of-five Heritage Junior B Hockey League championship series, the Wranglers struck for two quick goals early in the third period, then surrendered four and fell 7-6 to put themselves on life support.

“We had them, we just made some mental mistakes,” said Wranglers head coach Brian Lenz, who watched his club cough up three consecutive goals after assuming the 5-3 lead. “A couple of our guys stayed on too long and cost us a goal. They (Bisons) got some momentum and we just couldn’t get it stopped.”

The Bisons led 1-0 after one period on a goal by Ty Fehr, then doubled their lead when Dillon Loomer connected at 4:06 of the second period. But the Wranglers struck back with markers from Jason Bell and Justin Lawson and the teams traded goals before the frame was out — with Loomer scoring for the visitors and Riley Hansen replying for Blackfalds.

Chance Abbott and Jared Guilbault potted Wranglers goals just 29 seconds part before the final frame was two minutes old, but the Bisons replied with goals from Colin MacMurdo, Eddie Tracy and Jesse Lyall, who connected on a short-handed breakaway.

Chad Muth pulled the hosts back into a tie at 15:51, but the Bisons got the winner from Lucas Mikkelsen just under two minutes later.

Alex Caravaggio turned aside 24 shots for Okotoks, while Reagan Hughes made 27 saves for Blackfalds.

The Bisons won the series-opener 7-2 Friday at Okotoks, getting three goals from Phil Dillon, two from Lucas Mikkelsen and singles off the sticks of MacMurdo and Kevan Mikkelsen. Scoring for the Wranglers were Abbott and Guilbault.

Tyler Hughes came up with 44 saves for Okotoks. Blackfalds netminder Layne Swier blocked 36 shots.

“Our guys just weren’t sharp last game and we started slow again today,” said Lenz, whose team will compete in the provincial tournament April 5-8 due to the fact the Bisons are hosting.

“I don’t know if it’s because we’re already in provincials and the guys think that this (Heritage League title) doesn’t matter. Some of them really want it bad and you can tell in the room that some of them don’t want it that badly.”

Lenz said the Wranglers, after defeating the Mountainview Colts in the North Division final, have had problems adjusting to the Bisons’ quick pace of play.

“I know we’re close to them, but this is so much a different series than our last one,” said the Wranglers coach. “Mountainview was just out head-hunting, we didn’t even have to skate fast in that series. But these guys (Bisons) are fast and they move the puck quickly. They play the same style as we do.

“They had us down 4-0 in Friday’s game before we realized we were in that type of game.”

Game 3 of the Heritage League final will be played Friday at Okotoks. A fourth game if necessary, will go Sunday at Blackfalds.