The 100 Mile House Wranglers will be mounting another campaign to capture the KIJHL (Kootenay International Junior Hockey League) championship for the second time this season and it starts off with their home opening game on Sept. 14 against the Princeton Posse.
“I watched them on game film,” said head coach and general manager, Dale Hladun. “They’re younger and they have some good vets in Lane French and big defenceman, Noah Brusse. It will be a competitive game. There will be a lot more nerves on our side than theirs, they’ve already played two games.
On Saturday, they play the Osoyoos Coyotes who also have a former Wrangler’s player in Nick Nordstrom and former affiliate player, Slade Desharnais.
“I’m looking forward to the home opening weekend. Like, I just think you just want to see exactly what you have in your roster,” said Hladun of the 15 new players in the organization, peppered with a few veterans such has Liam Dodd and Kolby Page. “I got a good crew of guys like they’re good people. I think every day is going to be excited. There is a lot of talent.”
Hladun also announced two more acquisitions for the club.
Aidan Morrison, a defenceman, joined the team on Sept. 8. Last season he played with the Calgary Royals AA midget team.
Hladun first saw him at a spring camp for the Cowichan Valley Capitals in the BCHL. Hladun encouraged the 18-year-old to attend a camp with the Merritt Centennials, also of the BCHL.
“He’s a very smart kid, very high hockey IQ. He moves the puck but his overall skill, he is a well-built man. I’m really happy to see Aidan here,” said Hladun.
Hladun also brought in goalie Dan Allin aboard on Sept. 9, after seeing him play during a scouting trip in the Drayton Valley. The coach checked in with some goalie coaches he knew down in Edmonton to get an opinion on the young netminder, who played five games last season with the Drayton Valley Thunder in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
He liked what his goaltenders said about the Edmonton native.
Hladun also took some time to speak about one of the new players announced earlier, Ben Keon. Keon is the grandson of former Toronto Maple Leafs and four-time Stanley Cup winner, Dave Keon. His father Tim, also works as a scout in the NHL’s Central Scouting, with his territory being the Lower Mainland.
“Benny is his own guy. He’s just a smart player and moves the puck,” said Hladun, also noting Keon’s jokes might need some work despite all his upsides. “I think fans might as well enjoy him for the year, because I don’t think he’ll be in our league, he’ll be moving up.”
The Wranglers recently traded MacLean to Princeton after the latter team lost a goalie, former Wrangler Hayden Lyons, to suspension after an incident with league officials.
The 100 Mile House team did not receive anything in return.
“I’m not the kind of guy who feels like I need to make money off a thing or get value. They’re kids and they pay to play in our league, let’s help them get a spot. So when Princeton had opportunities, every kid I sent there – Lyons, Garrison and Jaysen, I just gave them to Princeton. I believe in their program, they’re good people and those kids needed an opportunity,” said Hladun, but not without frustration.
“That being said, [I was] dealing with [another] coach yesterday in our league and he offered me a player that he had just cut and I didn’t mind the kid. Then all the sudden he wants $1,500 for him. Really? Like you’re cutting the kid, he belongs in our league and I’m just disappointed that he went from: ‘oh, are you interested?’ to ‘I got a bidding war going.’ I don’t like that. It’s not how I do business so I’m just not going to do business with him.”