Wranglers build, get better

Blackfalds Wranglers head coach Brian Lenz was looking ahead when he recruited players for his 2008-09 Heritage Junior B Hockey League team.

Red Deer Viper Drew Todd releases the puck towards Blackfalds Wrangler goaltender Tanner Schalin during first period action of junior hockey action at the Arena on Monday. Schalin came up with the save to help the Wranglers go into the dressing room after the first period with a 3-0 lead.

Wranglers 5 Vipers 2

Blackfalds Wranglers head coach Brian Lenz was looking ahead when he recruited players for his 2008-09 Heritage Junior B Hockey League team.

His time and effort is already paying off in a big way.

While the Wranglers were a highly competitive club last winter, they’re now a front-runner with just one regulation-time loss this season.

“We kind of built for it last year. We had a lot of 18-year-olds kids and they all came back and have kind of gelled,” said Lenz, following his club’s 17th win of the current campaign, 5-2 over the Red Deer Vipers on Monday at the Arena.

“We also have some good young rookies this year, so yes, it’s kind of falling into place.”

The fresh faces on the Wranglers roster belong to defenceman Brett Lapointe and forwards Brad Watson, Jason Bell, Tyler Ellerby, Greg Gross and Jason Williams, and netminder Layne Swier.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old veterans Reed Watts and Riley Hansen, both defencemen, Ryan Stephens, Brandon Regush, Karson French and David Jantzie, who sits fourth in league scoring with 42 points (18g,24a), continue to flourish.

“We’ll be strong next year, too, I think,” said Lenz. “When your 18-year-old kids are as good as some 20- and 21-year-olds, you stay with them.”

The Wranglers lineup also features older top-end, take-charge talent.

Forwards Kurtis Ross, 21, and Kyle Maas, 20, are one-two in league scoring with 54 (22g,32a) and 48 (20-28) points, respectively, while defencemen Scott Maetche (6-19-25) and Jared Lenz (4-14-18), both 20, and 21-year-olds Scott Kallis (4-16-20) and Brant Leischner (3-8-11, 152 PIMs) provide toughness and leadership and have chipped in offensively.

“We didn’t have any 21-year-olds last season and now we have four,” said Lenz, in reference to Ross, Kallis, Leischner and forward Josh McIlravey.

“All of them are good leaders.”

The Blackfalds crew has plenty of depth, Lenz noted.

“We have 23 guys and it doesn’t matter who we sit out. They’ve all stepped up and played well,” said the coach.

Goaltending hasn’t been a problem this season.

Tanner Schalin, who stopped 30 shots on Monday, is a former Stettler Lightning netminder who last season suited up with the Kindersley Klippers of the SJHL, while Swier, from Rimbey, has posted some impressive numbers (2.22 goals-against average, .925 save percentage) after playing at the midget AAA level in Grande Prairie.

“I think it’s probably as good a team as we had when we won it all,” said Lenz, whose club, then based in Lacombe, captured the provincial title in 2007.

“But down the road injuries can play a big part in how your season goes. If we can avoid the major injuries I think we can go a long way.”

l Scoring for the Wranglers in Monday’s win were McIlravey, Jantzie, Maas, Kallis and Hansen. Drew Todd and Braden Corbett replied for the Vipers, who never recovered from a 3-0 first-period deficit.

Jason Pohl made 26 saves for Red Deer.


Just Posted

Several Red Deer businesses’ phone/fax lines taken over by ‘spoofers’

Same ‘prank’ calls were made as happened with RedCliff RCMP

Red Deer apartment project opposed by some neighbours

Two buildings proposed for a site in Normandeau with existing four apartment complexes

Red Deer’s osprey cam celebrities are back

FortisAlberta has webcam set up at nest created as part of avian protection program

Red Deer PCN Women’s Fun Run introduces Community Diaper Dash

Central Albertans will make a dash in diapers to bring lunches to… Continue reading

Cast your votes for the Best of Red Deer

Nominations for the Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are officially… Continue reading

Opinion: Schools can’t be exempt from scrutiny

This weekend’s meeting of the Alberta School Councils’ Association promises to be… Continue reading

Bishop now the Stars goalie trying to beat Blues in playoffs

Ben Bishop grew up rooting for the St. Louis Blues before being… Continue reading

Nashville gets its chance to step up for NFL draft

NASHVILLE — Broadway in downtown Nashville is as lively a place as… Continue reading

The Cranberries, still in mourning, return for the last time

NEW YORK — Whether or not there would be a final Cranberries’… Continue reading

Dance studio owner in dispute with Burton Cummings fined for noise ticket

MOOSE JAW, Sask. — The owner of a dance fitness studio who… Continue reading

Gardening: Time and effort key to buying garden plants

Greenhouses, garden centers and box stores are set to start selling bedding… Continue reading

Montreal native Nicholas Latifi off to solid start on Formula 2 race circuit

Practice makes perfect for Canadian Nicholas Latifi. The 23-year-old Montreal auto racer… Continue reading

Most Read