The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s (KIJHL) 100 Mile House Wranglers are in the middle of training camp and preparing for their upcoming season, starting with their home opener against the Princeton Posse on Sept. 14.
“Camp was small and competitive, I thought it went well,” said Dale Hladun, general manager and head coach, who is still biding his time to lure released Junior A players to the team. “In all fairness, I don’t like to bring in a whole bunch of kids and then release a bunch of guys because the players you want are still at a higher level whether it’s the Western Hockey League (WHL) or Junior A.”
He went on to say that training camps for the Wranglers and other northern and rural-based teams are different than their counterparts in Kelowna and the Lower Mainland, where there is a lot more access to players and younger aged-kids who only attend camp to get some ice time before they go back to minor hockey.
The British Columbian Hockey League (BCHL), the only Junior A league in the province, has already ended it’s pre-season and their regular season will start on Sept. 7, meaning some players have already been released or cut from the 17 teams that make up the league.
Hladun will be looking at some of those players.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) are still in the thick of their preseason but Hladun has already managed to lure a defenceman from the AJHL’s Grand Prairie Storm.
Jayce Schweizer played for the Chase Heat in the KIJHL last season, playing in 40 games in the regular season and four in the Heat’s playoff run. The 18-year-old Prince George native joined the Wranglers on Sept. 4.
Hladun said he is also looking at another player who is currently at a camp for one of the Albertan teams but declined to say who.
The Wranglers also played an exhibition game against the Kamloops Storm on Sept. 2 at the McArthur Island Sports & Events Centre, which they won 4-1.
“We dressed a lot of the young kids from camp to have a look at them. Some of the kids won’t make the team but they certainly could in the future,” said Hladun. “It was good, I think they competed well.”
Jakob Gullmes, the Wranglers new 16-year-old goalie from Pitt Meadows, had a strong first half behind the pipes. During the second half of the game, Blake Simpson came into the net and didn’t let any pucks get in the net.
“I thought he was very clever on the backend – smart, smooth puck-moving defenceman. I thought he and Ben Keon showed very well on the power play moving the puck,” he said.
Other young and new players are Dylan Carr and Tristan Williams.
Fans of the Wranglers should also expect forward Garrett Hilton to take up more of a leadership role this year after he took some of the younger players under his wing.
“He took charge. There’s always things you forget as a coach to prepare for the first game, just because it’s been a while. Garret just took charge and he went over how the warm-ups should be, he talked to the new kids about what the referees are going to call and little things to watch,” said Hladun. “I was really happy with Garrett. It’s good to see him have a leadership role at the club.”