- Our Town
Wranglers, Heat playoff matchup set
The point 100 Mile House earned in a 3-2 double-overtime loss to the Kamloops Storm in Lillooet on Feb. 16 was crucial, as a race for home-ice advantage in round 1 of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs comes down to the wire.
More specifically, it's coming down to the South Cariboo Rec. Centre, where the Wranglers host the Chase Heat on Feb. 21.
The Wranglers (23-20-0-7), currently second in the Doug Birks Division standings, will have 53 points heading into their last home game of the regular season, while Chase (25-23-0-2), with 52 points, hosts Revelstoke (8-38-0-4) on Feb. 19, and can potentially jump ahead of the Wranglers before then.
Whatever happens there, the points available against Chase this weekend are some of the biggest yet in what has been an undoubtedly exhilarating inaugural season for the KIJHL's newest team, and its fans.
For Wranglers defenceman Tyson Levesque, home-ice advantage in round 1 means “everything.”
“We need that game (against Chase) more than anything. Everybody is going to come ready for that game.
"If you make it to game 7, you want to be on your rink, and not have to drive somewhere else and have to stay in a hotel. You want to sleep in your own bed.”
The other division matchup will see Kamloops (41-8-0-1), division champs, take on the fourth-seeded Sicamous Eagles (22-25-0-3), which the Wranglers struggled against this year, winning only two of eight games.
Even though their record is better, meeting Chase in round 1 and not Sicamous is what the Wranglers want, Levesque says, adding they have a hard time scoring on Eagles goalie Kris Joyce.
Wranglers forward Cole Zimmerman echoes Levesque's point.
“We just seem to play better when we're playing Chase. It's going to be a challenge, but I think it's going to be a lot better (than playing Sicamous).”
The Wranglers have a winning record against Chase, having won four and lost three this season.
Zimmerman scored both 100 Mile House goals against Kamloops in Lillooet. Coach Doug Rogers says it was one of his best games this season.
Zimmerman, a local player, says things are starting to roll for him playing Junior B.
“Coming into a new league, I had to step up and get used to things. I played midget last year. It's a big step.”
Lane van de Wetering (2), Levesque and Jayden Syrota assisted on the goals. Magnus Viberg stopped 27 of 30 shots in net.
Rogers says the fans in Lillooet witnessed a good game, and the visiting hockey teams were treated well in return.
The Wranglers were without top scorer Luke Santerno and goalie Kristian Stead, who were called up to the Merritt Centennials of the British Columbia Hockey League. Defenceman Henry Hart missed the game due to a suspension. Forwards Shane Doherty, Kevin Raimundo and Mathieu Longhurst are out with injuries, and Connor Sloan missed the game for personal reasons.
“Those seven players in our lineup make a huge difference,” Rogers says.
In turn, having clinched the division and Okanagan/Shuswap Conference, Kamloops elected not to dress many of its top players.
Rogers says it would be great to see a packed rink to cheer on and support the players on Feb. 21.
“The community support has been tremendous throughout this year and it is important that a loud crowd shows up again on Friday.”
The Wranglers head to Kamloops on Feb. 22 to wrap up the regular season.