BLACKFALDS — The Blackfalds Wranglers have pretty much corralled the Red Deer Vipers.
Jared Kambeitz scored on a wrap-around at 6:35 of overtime Sunday to give the Wranglers a 6-5 win over the Vipers and a 3-0 chokehold in the best-of-seven Heritage Junior B Hockey League Northern Division final.
Game 4 goes Wednesday at 8:15 p.m. at the Red Deer Arena. “It was a really big win for the boys, to come back after facing some adversity,” said Wranglers captain Jared Williams, who fired three goals and assisted on a pair.
Williams was referring to a 3-0 deficit the Wranglers experienced in the opening frame, before his goal at 18:31 gave the hosts some life heading into the first intermission.
“They (Vipers) came out hard and we kind of dozed off for a bit,” said Williams. “But we battled back and they kept pushing, too. They definitely didn’t back off. Our forecheck eventually outdid their defence and it paid off tonight.”
Despite being down 3-0 and then 3-1 at the end of the opening frame, Williams said the Wranglers weren’t overly worried.
“We have a lot of guys in the room who have gone far in the playoffs,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough in my first three years with the Wranglers to make provincials every time.
“We have a lot of guys who know how to play in those key minutes of the game . . . we know what to do. There was no freaking out when we were down. It was just good to see the guys battle back like that.”
With the Wranglers playing with little to no discipline early, the Vipers staked themselves to a three-goal lead in the first 15 minutes on an even-strength goal from Chris Robertson and power-play tallies from Jeff Kohut and Kolton Gillett.
But the visitors then ran into penalty problems, which led to Williams’ late first-period goal and then four more — including three with a man advantage — in the first 3:16 of the second period.
Williams potted his second of the game a mere 18 seconds into the second frame. From there, Taylor Mulder scored at 1:46, Tyler Loomer connected at 2:12 and Williams completed his hat trick 64 second later for a 5-3 Blackfalds lead.
“We were kind of hot-headed early in the game,” said Williams.
“Red Deer’s game is about trying to make us mad and they do a good job of that. When we play to their level, taking dirty penalties behind the play, it definitely pays off for them.
“We beared down and mostly stayed out of the penalty box in the second half of the game.”
The Vipers got a late-second period goal from Nick Glackin to pull within one, and Cole DeGraaf tallied at 15:31 of the third period — beating Wranglers netminder Layne Swier to the short side after taking a corner pass from captain Braden Corbett — to force overtime.
Swier finished with 27 saves, while Jayden Adrian stopped 33 shots for the Vipers.
The Northern Division winner will likely face the Okotoks Bisons in the league championship series. Okotoks lead the Southern final 3-0 over the Medicine Hat Cubs.
l Blackfalds took a 2-0 lead in the Northern final Saturday, directing 61 shots at Vipers netminder Brendan Mandrusiak in a 4-1 win at the Arena.
Scoring for the Wranglers were Trent Hermary, Stephen Pietsch, Loomer and Williams (power play, empty net). DeGraaf had the lone Red Deer goal.
Garret Montour made 28 saves for Blackfalds.