The 100 Mile House Wranglers are on the verge of elimination after a controversial overtime goal was scored against them by the Revelstoke Grizzlies in Game 3 of the second round of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).
“Revelstoke, during the course of the season, has beat us in all six regular season games on an average of just over five goals a game,” said Dale Hladun, general manager and head coach.
The expectation of a tough series has been delivered on, as the Wranglers have failed to capitalize on their chances against the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference’s biggest threat in Revelstoke.
“We had to come up with some kind of defensive play and I thought we did well,” he said. “But it’s disappointing when the games are tight and the officials decide to be part of the play. I mean, there was zero blatant penalties during the game and the soft ones they would call. It’s just why? This is the playoffs. When the referee puts up his arm and two teams stare at him wondering if that’s me or him, I thought that was a factor.”
One of the calls Hladun is referencing is an interference call in the third period called with only five minutes left in the third period, which led to the Revelstoke goal that tied up the series.
A controversial overtime goal was scored by Brenden Vulcano, a rookie defenceman for the Grizzlies. It was a messy goal after the Revelstoke players crashed the Wranglers net caused a little chaos. However, after the officials blew the whistle for a goal, their decision was met with more than boos.
Wranglers forward Nico Hemming got in an emotional shouting match with officials, practically chasing them to the penalty box area, about whether the puck was in the net or not. Coaches, fans and other players also could be heard yelling, while some players looked dejected at their net.
Facing 33 shots throughout the game, the Wranglers had 27 pucks on target for the net. All but two were pushed aside or covered by Liam McGarva.
Hladun also talked about how their defensive coverage has limited the Revelstoke Grizzlies, who carried one of the best powerplay units in the league, to one powerplay goal in the series.
The Grizzlies managed to convert three of their 33 chances on the Wranglers, including one powerplay goal late in the third period to send the game to overtime.
However, Hladun also said the team is still weak when it comes to one-on-one battles and the players can still become defensively lazy.
Cody Barnes, a forward with the Wranglers, managed to score his own powerplay goal in the second period. The goal was his second playoff goal of the year. He was assisted by Jaxon Passeri.
It was Kolby Page who opened up the scoring for the Wranglers though, in response to a goal from the Grizzlies’ Ryan Pereverzoff. Page was assisted by defenceman Joel Patsey and forward Garrett Hilton.
Page, who finished the regular season with 55 points, has continued his good form into the playoffs. He’s scoring at about 0.9 points per game with six points in seven games. Four of his points come from goals.
“He’s been doing such a good job as a leader,” said Hladun. “He’s been blocking shots. He is so full of bumps and bruises… He’s certainly elevated the play of a lot of his teammates but I still feel some of his teammates have a lot more to give. I just can’t believe how they can watch their captain sacrifice what he can.”
Hilton has also been a threat to teams, scoring nine points in eight games.
Forward Darian Long has also been a major upside for the Wranglers, despite missing three games in the first round due to suspension. In the five games he has played, he’s scored eight points including three goals.
Jayce Schweizer, despite giving up the penalty leading to the tying goal, has been one of the team’s leading defensemen with four points. Patsey also has four points.
Jakob Gullmess has faced 300 shots during his eight starts in the playoffs. He’s made 279 saves and has a .930 save percentage and 2.25 goals against average.
Game 1 also saw the 100 Mile team lose out in overtime in Revelstoke to a 4-3 score with goals scored by Long, Harley Bootsma and Page.
Revelstoke got the better of 100 Mile in Game 2. Hosting the Wranglers, the Grizzlies won 5-0.
Elsewhere in the league, the Summerland Steam are fighting for survival against the Kelowna Chiefs. The Chiefs are winning the series with three games to one. Game five is on March 14.
In the Kootenay Conference, the Kimberley Dynamiters have already qualified for the conference final after eliminating the Golden Rockets in four games. Now Kimberley is just waiting for their dancing partner. It could either be the Beaver Valley Nitehawks or the Nelson Leafs. As that series stands now, the Nitehawks are leading the series 2-1. Game 4 is at the Beaver Valley Arena on March 13, while Game 5 will bring Nelson back to home ice.