The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s (KIJHL) 100 Mile House Wranglers split the weekend during their first road trip of the season, losing 8-1 to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks on Sept. 20 and beating the Spokane Braves 5-2 on Sept. 21.
“We actually played good. We lost 8-1, you’re not happy with a loss but the boys actually did good. We outshot them in the first period. It was just a tough go for our young goaltender [Caelan Armstrong]. It was his first game in this league and you know, six goals in seven shots – it’s a big hole to dig out of but the guys did. They worked hard,” said head coach and general manager Dale Hladun.
He added he was proud of the team’s resilience, especially with the team missing Darian Long who couldn’t make the trip due to a stomach ulcer and captain Kolby Page being injured in the first period with a broken rib. The two injuries forced the Wranglers to play with three lines of forwards. Garrett Hunter, a defenceman from Qualicum Beach, was also hurt late in that game.
“There were a lot of good signs out of our game in Beaver Valley. So what made me happy was the way the kids pushed back. They didn’t want to be measured by that game on Friday.”
The team headed across the border to take on the Spokane Braves, again only putting out three lines of forwards and six defencemen.
“We put Caelan back in net and I just wanted Caelan to get back on the horse and I know it would have bothered him just how that game [against Beaver Valley] went,” said Hladun. “At the end of the game, the players pick a player of the game out of our own group and the boys chose Caelan. So that just proves we made the decision bringing him here and he’s a good goaltender.”
The game against the Spokane Braves resulted in a 5-2 win for the Canadian team, with goals scored by Quinn Mulder (his third in as many games), Kowblick and Bootsma.
“The boys outplayed Spokane right from the drop of the puck to the end of the game.”
Hladun said it was a good road trip overall, despite the many hours the team had to sit on the bus for.
“The kids got to know each other a little bit more. We juggled up who hangs out with who in the hotel rooms. There was singing and talking and fun stuff on the bus.”
Hladun said due to the long bus rides (to and from) the weekend was full of team building.
As for injuries, Darian Long was skating this weekend and might play on the weekend against Chase Heat (Sept. 27) and Creston Valley Thunder Cats (Sept. 28). However, he is more unsure of Page, and doesn’t want to rush the forward on his recovery.
“He’s such a cowboy. For him, pain is something to expect. My concern is that you never know how exactly hurt they are and Kolby just seems invincible but I don’t want it to turn into a nagging injury or a nagging injury for the rest of his life. ”
Describing Chase Heat as the club’s archrival, Hladun seemed more intrigued about the game against Creston, who have won all four of their opening games so far, and have two players in the top five for league scoring, Carson Small (10) and Josh Dalquist (9).
Hladun also praised their head coach and general manager, Nick Redding, for his recruitment efforts.
Hosting Creston at home, fans of the Wranglers will at least see two new faces in the club’s colours due to Hladun’s recruitment efforts of his own.
The two players are coming into town from Saskatchewan, Brandt Fiske and Kyler Opp.
Opp is a defenceman, coming from the Nipawin Hawks in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.