Wranglers in hunt for division title

Players need to return from Christmas and play every shift like it's their last

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The 100 Mile House Wranglers are off for the Christmas break.

It’s a time for many players, coaches, staff and volunteers to spend more time with family and friends.

For the players, many of whom are very young, it will be an important time to get back to their roots.

They will also have some time away from the rink to rest and heal.

It will also be a respite from the whirlwind of activity that is the daily life of Kootenay International Junior Hockey League players.

The rookies will have an opportunity to reflect on the words of wisdom they heard from their coaches who told them what they needed to work on from day 1.

They will have to steel their resolve to pay attention to the details – the things that separate good teams from championship squads.

They need to stride (not glide) for 60 minutes of every game.

They need to become a brotherhood.

Last 12 games

The Wranglers definitely struggled in the dozen games leading up to the Christmas Break – three wins, seven losses (two in overtime) and two ties.

During this stretch of games, the boys slid from first place in the Doug Birks Division to third place.

While coach Dale Hladun was reasonably pleased with the overall play of the boys who gave up several third-period leads, he repeatedly scolded them for not playing a full 60 minutes and not playing smart hockey without the puck.

Last two games

The Wranglers split the final home-and-away series with the Sicamous Eagles, which sits in last place of the division.

The Wranglers laid an egg in game 1 in Sicamous – 5-3 loss, with goals by Justin Bond, Frazer Dodd and Nick McCabe.

However, the 100 Mile lads played much better in the second game, with a 5-1 victory.

They jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first on goals by Garrett Hilton, McCabe and Sam Bosek, who was back in the lineup, with two markers.

Dodd finished the Wranglers scoring in the third.

Newly acquired goalie Jakob Severson got the win in his first game between the pipes for the Wranglers, as he stopped 30 of 31 Eagles’ shots.

Looking back

Twelve games into the regular season, coach Hladun noted the Wranglers were very close to where they were in the standing at the same time last season.

With the Christmas break here, this year’s Wranglers are in a similar position they were in last year.

They are in third place and still in the hunt for the division title.

One thing different, though, is they didn’t have a lackluster performance in a humiliating loss like last year’s Wranglers.

Therefore, this year’s squad didn’t have to come back on the ice after a loss and go through a hard skate before they headed home for Christmas.

Looking ahead

The Wranglers have blown a few third-period leads and have allowed teams to come back at them in the final frame, but they still have the seventh fewest losses – nine – in the league.

They have made some recent acquisitions to shore up a young defensive corps – Matt Clarke – and an experienced goalie – Jakob Severson.

They are missing the big power forward all of the other teams in the league have.

However, the young players and the veterans all have the will and the desire to win.

Now, they have to play smart hockey and make sure they don’t give up leads in the third period.

If they can’t get the puck defensively, they must make sure the person with the puck doesn’t start an odd-man rush.

They have to play every shift like it’s their last.