BLACKFALDS — The Blackfalds Wranglers showed just how far the gap is between them and the rest of the Heritage Junior B Hockey League North Division on Sunday afternoon.
The Wranglers breezed past the Mountainview Colts 8-1 to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven North Division final.
None of the three games have been close and the Colts tried their best to pull Sunday’s contest into the gutter.
The best thing Blackfalds can do now is finish off Mountainview on Tuesday night in Didsbury and await the champ of the South final between the Coaldale Copperheads and the Okotoks Bisons.
“Let’s get this done as fast as we can,” said Wranglers coach Wranglers coach Sean Neumeier. “You can see the rest does hurt a little bit … but it is important because we’ve got to heal up and we don’t want to risk coming out of here and getting chopped down, that’s pointless.”
The Wranglers were led by Robin Carlson who had six points (two goals, four assists), while Bryce Marshall had a five-point night (3-2-5).Wally Samson, Andrew McLennan and Quinn Brown also scored for the Wranglers while Thomas Isaman made 26 saves for the win.
Drew Kocur scored the Colts’ lone goal while Jake Carlson made 20 saves in the loss.
Blackfalds opened the scoring at 13:09 of the first period as Samson buried a pass from behind the net on the power play.
Mountainview did tie the game up at 1:59 of the second period on a power play of their own, but the game was never close after that, despite a tight game in shots.
Blackfalds went one stretch of scoring five straight goals on six shots — including tallying on both of their second period shots.
In the third period, the Wranglers made it look almost too easy as they scored five times, and only once on the man advantage.
Carlson, in particular had a huge game. Three of his four assists were first assists while his second goal — Blackfald’s seventh at 9:41 of the third period — summed up the night from a Mountainview perspective.
He stole the puck from a Colts player while surrounded by three defenders, slipped out and sniped a shot low glove side. He was untouchable.
“Everybody’s been playing really well … they’ve just been bearing down and burying their chances,” said the Wranglers captain who led the league with 92 points (43-49-92) in 36 games this season. “Some nights we don’t have our ‘A’ game and we still managed to pull out four goals somehow and it’s enough to win games with our goaltending.”
Carlson now has a post-season high 17 points (8-9-17) in seven games. Marshall also takes a big jump up the leader board with 14 points (3-11-14) in six games while fellow blue-liner Brown has 11 points (4-7-11) in seven games and Trent Hermary has 13 points (7-6-13) in seven games, despite being held off the scoresheet on Sunday.
“A guy on every line has good numbers and our fourth line has been unreal for us,” said Neumeier. “I don’t ever feel nervous putting anyone out and that’s so nice.”
While they were reluctant sparring partners, the Wranglers also showed they were not going to back down from the chippiness of the Colts, and started responding in the third period, including one fight when Jaye Sutherland fought Austin Pedersen 36 seconds into the frame.
“I was getting sick of it because it’s been a long chippy, gross series with a lot of hacking and whacking,” said Neumeier. “We’re not built for that, we’re more of skilled team, so I addressed them in the room and told them if you don’t stand up for yourself and don’t give it back, you’re going to take more of it because they will think they can get away with it. It was nice to see us push back.”
Most importantly, the Wranglers kept to their systems for 60 minutes, including back checking hard and blocking shots when the game was well out of reach.
“You don’t want bad habits to creep in because when the game is important they’re going to leak through too,” said Neumeier. “I’ve been trying to preach that and they’ve been buying in so hopefully we have continued success.”