The 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have closed off January with two wins against a divisional rival, Chase Heat.
“[The] boys played pretty good,” said general manager and head coach Dale Hladun. “Chase, they’re working hard but they’re feeling the pressure of a tough season. Even though we beat them we can’t start thinking that we’re 7-0 over the next opponents.”
Combining for a score of 11-2, the two wins bring the Wranglers’ record to 21 wins and 46 points, 12 points clear of Kamloops Storm and 15 points of the Sicamous Eagles. Both teams are entwined in a battle for third place in the division.
“After the Revelstoke weekend, we had to look at the mirror over how we battle. I feel that our veterans are showing the way but our young guys instead of absorbing it they’re just watching it,” said Hladun. “So this week we addressed it with the young kids. I thought there was a little more compete level in our young… but I feel our strength this past weekend was actually because of the contributions of the third and fourth lines.”
However, Hladun said there is still much work to do and the players on the third and fourth lines to need to play more consistently and toughen up.
“I think one thing to win a championship you can’t be nice and I got a nice team. So that’s the problem with our guys. Everybody tells me how nice my boys are, well you know where nice guys finish. We got to compete, we got to be tough to play against,” he said, adding that the team needs to draw more penalties.
Despite being fourth in powerplay conversions, the Wranglers are third last on opportunities with 187. Hladun highlight’s his powerplay as one of the club’s biggest assets. The Revelstoke Grizzlies, who lead the division the Wranglers are in, have had 282 opportunities with a man advantage, scoring 68 goals. Their opportunities and goals are most in the league but their conversion rate is third.
If the Wranglers can agitate opposing players more often, it would result in more goal-scoring opportunities, according to Hladun. Currently, Hilton leads the club with powerplay goals with 13. Darian Long is next with seven.
The first game against Chase was played on Jan. 25 at home and saw the home side come up on top 6-1.
Tristan Walz was the first star of the game, scoring two of the Wranglers goals. The two goals were his first as a member of the 100 Mile House Wranglers since joining them half-way through the season from the Princeton Posse.
Garrett Hilton, Julien Dewey, Harley Bootsma, and Cody Barnes scored the remaining goals.
Jakob Gullmes was behind the pipes during that game, only letting in one goal of 25 shots in. It was his tenth win of the season.
The goal from Hilton was his 30th of the season, breaking former captain Justin Bond’s single-season goals record of 29. Hilton is also one point away from tying Bond’s points per season record of 59. For assets per season, Hilton is in eighth with 28, and 11 assists away from tying with former player and captain Brett Harris (39). Harris played with the Wranglers in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. He is currently playing university hockey in the states.
The second game showed 100 Mile got to Chase. It was a 7-1 affair with Dewey, Bootsma. Barnes, Aidan Morrison, Nic Flinton and Kolby Page (2) scoring for the Wranglers. Darian Long had a four-point game, all assists.
The two goals from Page brought his season total to 21 and in addition to his 23 assists, Page has 44 points this season. The Wranglers captain is third on team scoring, just behind Long (46).
Miles Minor was in net for the Saturday game. He faced 31 shots and conceded one of them. It was his seventh win of the season.
The Wranglers will open up February with two away games against Sicamous Eagles (Feb. 1) and North Okanagan Knights (Feb. 2).
“Our battles will be strong this weekend. We got a lot of work to do,” said Hladun. “There’s about 15 practices and 10 games before the real stuff happens. We’re just trying to focus on d-zone coverage and then making offensive chances. We got a lot of work to do but I think they are embracing that, so I’m happy.”