The North Division semi-finals in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League (HJHL) playoffs are coming down to the wire.
The matchup features two central Alberta teams the Sylvan Lake Wranglers and the Rocky Mountain House Rams that are battling for a spot in the division finals.
The Wranglers lead the best-of-seven series three games to two with a chance to eliminate the Rams Friday night at Rocky Arena.
Head coach and general manager of the Wranglers Pat Garritty said so far in this series the margin of error is small.
“Both teams are playing really well, tight, and well defensively. It’s just been a back-and-forth battle and so far it’s been the home team that’s come out on top,” he said.
The number one-seeded Wranglers won the first game 3-2 in overtime but the Rams responded in game two with a 3-2 victory once again in overtime.
Sylvan Lake dominated in the third game 5-1 and Rocky returned the favor in game four with a 4-2 win. Most recently in game five, the Wranglers capitalized on a pivotal matchup and won 5-0 to lead the series.
A big part of their success this season Garritty credited to their goaltending with returnee Peyton Lobe and rookie Kaden Toussaint stepping in.
“Rocky finished below us in the standings but we don’t underestimate them we know how good they are. We’re going to see their best game on Friday,” he added.
“We need to play the full 60 minutes. We respect our opponent and if we don’t bring everything we’re capable of bringing it won’t be good enough.”
Rams head coach Wendall Mason said the team that’s capitalized on their scoring chances and received a bit of ‘puck luck’ has won each game. Overall, he said it’s been a great series to be a part of.
“We’re feeling pretty confident [heading into Friday’s game]. We don’t want to be cocky but definitely confident. I think playing in front of our home fans and the atmosphere definitely drives our players to the next level,” Mason said.
Rocky came into the series as an underdog but has given the Wranglers a run for their money pushing the series to six games.
“We’re happy with our team performance,” Mason said. ” I think the game just got away from us in game five from playing our style of game and played their game a little too long. We just need to get back to playing ours for the whole game.”