In the end for the Red Deer Vipers, the hole was too deep and the Blackfalds Wranglers too good.
The Wranglers beat the Vipers 6-2 to sweep the Heritage Junior B Hockey League North semifinal in four games on Tuesday at the Red Deer Arena.
The Wranglers went into the playoffs having lost only two games in regulation all year, while the Vipers used a strong second half to climb into fourth place in the North division.
Still Red Deer had a bit of history on their side with a miracle comeback two years ago against the Wranglers in the North final, rallying from a 3-0 deficit to win the series.
There was no repeat this year.
“After the first period I was pretty heated and thought we didn’t have a very good effort … I said ‘We can’t let them up, can’t give them hope,’” said Blackfalds coach Sean Neumeier. “They turned it around and played two really good periods and dominated them, it was nice to see.”
Trent Hermary scored twice for Blackfalds while Cole Laing, Bryce Boguski, Wally Samson and Aiden Wilson added singles. Thomas Isaman made 30 saves for the win.
Cole deGraaf and Justin Corbett responded for Red Deer while Kyle Munro allowed five goals on 41 shots.
The game was close for 40 minutes, with Blackfalds nursing a 3-2 lead, but they pulled away with three more goals in the final frame, including one into the empty net, to finish the Vipers’ season.
“We lost 6-2, but I don’t really think it was a 6-2 game, we did play good, we just had to push at the end to get that goal and gave up a few chances that we normally don’t,” said Vipers coach JD Morrical.
“It was a good season, it was a good series. Our biggest demise was Game 2, we should have won Game 1 and then played real bad in Game 2 and gave them all the momentum.”
The campaign was a tumultuous one for Morrical, who was brought in prior to the playoffs last year.
This year he spent much of the season trying to bring the dressing room together while juggling three inconsistent goalies. But after Christmas, things started to come into focus for the Vipers.
Still the gap remained between them and their arch rivals from up the highway.
Red Deer only loses a their four 21 year olds to graduation as they build towards hosting provincials next year.
“It was a disappointing finish — Blackfalds has an amazing hockey team, they only lost two games all year — I think we should have been able to give them a better run but they were the better team for sure,” said Morrical.
The Vipers now get the prize of waiting for the winner of the other North semifinal between the Airdrie Thunder and the Mountainview Colts, now tied 2-2 after Airdrie’s 2-1 win on Tuesday.
“I don’t care who we get, I’m pretty confident against both of them, I hope they go seven (games) and we can start on Tuesday,” said Neumeier.