After an epic seven game series in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League, the Sylvan Lake Wranglers and Red Deer Vipers will get the 2020-21 season started with a four-game mini-series. Game 1 will be played Friday night in Sylvan Lake. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

After an epic seven game series in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League, the Sylvan Lake Wranglers and Red Deer Vipers will get the 2020-21 season started with a four-game mini-series. Game 1 will be played Friday night in Sylvan Lake. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Wranglers, Vipers set to tangle in HJHL season opener

Playoff hockey in October?

Not exactly, but when the Red Deer Vipers and Sylvan Lake Wranglers hit the ice Friday to kick off the 2020-21 Heritage Junior B Hockey League season– it might just feel like it.

The two teams played last March in the HJHL North Division semi-final, an epic seven games series in which the Wranglers moved on. Last weekend, they played in a pair of exhibition contests and will now square off in a four-game mini-series to start the year, due to COVID-19 regulations.

It won’t be a typical regular season by any means, but Wranglers coach Pat Garrity said the players and coaching staff are just happy to have hockey back in some way.

“It was just great to be back at the rink, in that environment with some normalcy. You can truly see how much these guys love to play. It was just good to be back,” he said.

The Wranglers, who had their pursuit of an HJHL title cut short last season, have some unfinished business according to the head coach.

The 2019-20 playoff run ended when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, after Game 3 of the North Division Final against the Mountainview Colts. Even with that long in the rearview mirror, getting back to games over the last two weeks has been good for the group.

“There’s no replacement for games. You can practice all you want, but until you play it’s a different pace. We’ve got a keen group, a committed group and they didn’t like the way it ended last year,” Garrity said.

“They just feel there’s some unfinished business and they’re excited to get back to work.”

They will mostly ice the same roster as last season, with 15 returning players and 23 on the roster total. One of last year’s leading point producer Braidon Westin is back and expected to lead the way for the Wranglers.

Garrity said they will also carry three goalies this year, with no affiliates available.

For the Vipers, new bench boss Kyle Scott takes over for JD Morrical. Scott said his group had a late start with training camp and were still finding their footing a bit through the pair of exhibition games.

They’ll have 11 players returning, including Rylan Burns, Jace Parrup, Tanner Scott, Jacksyn Goodall and goalie Cannon Whitbread.

“We have a good mix of young and older guys. With the kids coming up from midget, some really good kids there that can definitely play at this level and contribute,” said Scott, who also coached a number of players from the team at the U15 level.

“Really solid on the back end, in net, in my opinion, one of the strongest tandems in the league. It’s good to have that.”

Scott added that his team is looking forward to another shot at the Wranglers especially after losing both exhibition games.

“It was a good test for us, especially with Sylvan (Lake), our rival, got guys into the game real quick and now we get to play them four more times,” he said.

“As a new coach, it’s good to see guys getting into it early and doesn’t take long for them to build a hate on I guess.”

He also felt the same as Garrity, the majority of his group was just happy to be playing hockey again.

“Just nice to get everybody back in the rink and start playing, there were a lot of happy faces out there, so it was good,” he said.

When the puck drops Friday in Sylvan Lake, there will be no love lost between the two long-time rivals. Game 2 of the mini-series is Saturday in Red Deer. Tickets are sold out for the opener in Sylvan Lake.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lynne McConnell, a Red Deer single mom who runs a delivery company, is left without a car for her business after her vehicle was stolen twice in about 48 hours. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Highway 11, from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House, is about to be twinned in a $120-million project announced Friday. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Town of Sylvan Lake likes Highway 11 twinning plans

Province plans to twin Highway 11 to Rocky Mountain House

The Red Deer Boxing Club has raised money to expand programming, but still needs a larger space to operate in when it’s allowed to reopen. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer Boxing Club has obtained $70,000 in grants but is still seeking a larger space

Without expanded programming, the grants must be returned: manager

Lynn Van Laar, chair of this year’s Christmas Wish Breakfast, said the event was planned outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Outdoor Christmas Wish Breakfast helps central Alberta families this holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to stop children from having a merry… Continue reading

Canada's Ambassador to the United States Kirsten Hillman speaks via video link at the Global Business Forum in Banff, Alta., on September 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Keystone XL not the same project John Kerry nixed in 2015, Canada’s U.S. envoy says

Keystone XL not the same project John Kerry nixed in 2015, Canada’s U.S. envoy says

The Syncrude oil sands extraction facility is reflected in a tailings pond near the city of Fort McMurray, Alta., on June 1, 2014. Imperial Oil Ltd. says it will relinquish its contract to provide operational, technical and business management services to Syncrude Canada Ltd. when Suncor takes over its oilsands mining operations at the end of 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Imperial Oil set to end Syncrude services contract as Suncor becomes operator

Imperial Oil set to end Syncrude services contract as Suncor becomes operator

Bay Street in Canada's financial district is shown in Toronto on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
North American stock markets surge higher, Dow tops 30,000

North American stock markets surge higher, Dow tops 30,000

Pumpjacks draw oil out of the ground as a deer stands in a canola field near Olds, Alta., Thursday, July 16, 2020. The Canada Energy Regulator says we will still heavily rely on fossil fuels over the next 30 years even with a bigger carbon tax and other new climate change policies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada Energy Regulator projects there may be no need for Trans Mountain expansion

Canada Energy Regulator projects there may be no need for Trans Mountain expansion

A fall stretch of long, warm weather has meant a much better harvest than last year, when this kind of snow arrived a month earlier.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Snowy roads in the forecast for Central Albertans

Central Albertans should expect a little extra snow on the roads for… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels forward Chris Douglas will take on a different hockey challenge later this month, playing NHL 21 in a virtual Memorial Cup competition against some of the best players in the CHL. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Douglas pumped to represent Rebels in virtual Memorial Cup showdown

In more than 250 days, Chris Douglas hasn’t had a chance to… Continue reading

Hockey Canada president and CEO Scott Smith speaks during a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. Hockey Canada announced Tuesday that two players at its nation junior selection camp have tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Two players at Canada’s World Junior selection camp test positive for COVID-19

Canada’s world junior hockey selection camp in Red Deer came to a… Continue reading

Most Read