After winning two games straight, the 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, went the other way.
“We’re young in the season and I got a lot of rookies and some of the kids haven’t played at a highly structured level,” said Dale Hladun, the club’s general manager and head coach. “The talent is there but the discipline to stick to the structure or to commit to positional play – it’s going to take time. It’s not concerning, I think you learn far more from a loss than a win. Right now, we have to learn.”
He said the team will be focusing on one-on-one and two-on-two drills and working on their communication skills and defensive structure in the coming weeks.
However, he is satisfied with the team’s offensive output so far, lauding the team’s puck-moving abilities and creativity.
Not so much defensively though.
“I feel defensively, we got to identify a loose man on our end, we got to finish hits at the point and we got to learn to stay out of the pile. Like, a lot of the times when the puck is in our own end kids think they got to dig at the puck and shot it out. Well you got to contain the offensive man first and then you can bang the pucks out and break out,” he explained. “It’s definitely teaching time.”
The Beaver Valley NiteHawks came to 100 Mile House on Sept. 22 and thumped the home team 4-1, with Wrangler forward Chase Schurack scoring the lone goal with the help of captain Kolby Page and defenceman Aidan Morrison.
Hladun said he thought the club started slow, picked it up a bit and then started taking silly penalties which made the team’s teams effort to climb back up much steeper. He said they played a much better third period, but unfortunately, they failed to convert any chances.
100 Mile House then travelled to Kamloops the following day to play the Kamloops Storm, who are experiencing some internal turmoil recently, and dropped the ball, losing 5-4.
Kamloops got off to an early start with two goals in the first period through Jacob Vautour and Lincoln Connor. Both goals were assisted by James Laslikeas.
The Wranglers didn’t get on the board until the beginning of the second, where Page scored his third goal of the season shorthanded and unassisted. However, the Storm responded with two more goals before Page came through for his fourth goal of the season.
Again, the goal was answered by Kamloops to close of the second period with a 5-2 score.
“We came out so flat and so distracted,” said Hladun. “Kamloops, in my opinion, didn’t earn their goals. We gave them to them with our silly plays. I don’t feel like Kamloops outplayed us to get those scoring chances.”
The Wranglers scored their remaining two goals in the third period.
“Again, in the third period, we ran the show. We clawed our way back, pulled our goalie and almost had a chance to tie it up late in the game,” said Hladun.
Hladun said he was really happy with the play of goalie Dan Allin, Aidan Morrison, Ben Keon and Kolby Page over the weekend.
The two games were also the fan’s introduction to a new player, Harvey Bootsma.
Able to play both defence and forward, Bootsma played for Revelstoke Grizzlies, a divisional rival of the Wranglers, for the previous two seasons and five games in the 2015-16 season.
“He’s a competitive guy and our guys hated playing against him,” said Hladun.
Bootsma has played his two games in the Wranglers uniform as a defenceman but Hladun said he’ll most likely move to forward when Liam Dodd returns from his three-game suspension (Dodd was suspended for taking off his helmet during a fight against the Osoyoos Coyotes. He will be back on Sept. 29 for the game against Creston Valley Thunder Cats).
Overall, Hladun said he was pretty pleased with how things are going but reiterated there will be a lot of teaching going on this season.
“It’s all practice until the playoffs,” he concluded.