The 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) had a tough time over the weekend, losing a doubleheader to the Revelstoke Grizzlies.
“We got some big kids and they’re soft. I can’t say it any other way,” said head coach and general manager Dale Hladun. “There is a difference between taking dumb penalties and penalties. If you’re taking penalties in a battle where it’s an elbow or a charge or roughing, that tells me you are engaging. I got some big men on my team that only have three penalties, so I am disappointed in these guys who aren’t trying to be tough to play against.”
Revelstoke combined for 12 goals against 100 Mile’s four. The two losses come at a crucial time, with the latter team trying to get into playoff shape heading into the last month of the regular season.
Forward Harley Bootsma returned to face his former team in Revelstoke, scoring 100 Mile House’s lone goal in the first game (Jan. 18) and his sixth of his campaign (a career high).
Julien Dewey assisted on the goal.
The Wranglers powerplay units struggled throughout the game and did not capitalize in the seven times they were on the man advantage.
Hladun’s team usually has a strong power play presence and are currently fourth in the league with powerplay success percentage at 22.78 per cent, one spot behind Revelstoke (24.25 per cent).
The powerplay unit struggled again during the second game on Jan. 19, only scoring once on ten attempts, with defenceman Joel Patsey scoring, assisted by Dewey and Nico Hemming. Darian Long scored the two other goals for the Wranglers, one of them was assisted by Garrett Hilton. The other was an unassisted shorthanded goal and his 20th goal of the season.
Long has also been suspended for one game for accumulated instigator penalties and is eligible to return on the Jan. 26 against Chase.
Hladun mentioned the vets such as Long, Page, Hilton and Patsey have all been playing great and that Hladun has all the faith with them in the world, but is disappointed in the younger players who he says have failed to recognize their leadership.
“Here are these young guys on our team who want ice time and minutes and they want a bigger role. As soon as it’s thrown upon them, well where did you go?” said Hladun, adding that he preached to the younger kids that they are the future and can’t rely on the veterans to win them games, even offering up a challenge.
“You young guys, you may be back here next year or maybe you won’t, maybe you aren’t, because we need to win and it’s not just about this year but the future. Who am I building around for next year? And if I’m starting to see soft plays or guys that aren’t willing to step up or take a role, then why the hell would I want them back?”
It should be noted that Revelstoke was without Tommy Bodtker, Matt Cadden, and Ryan Pereeverzoff due to a four-game suspension for multiple fights. The three have combined for 103 points and are regular contributors to the team, playing over 30 games each.
Despite the two losses, the 100 Mile House Wranglers are still in second place in the Doug Birks Division with a record of 19-15-1-0-3 and 42 points.
The team is 10 points ahead of the Sicamous Eagles and have been maintaining a similar length throughout the season.
Revelstoke, on the other hand, is 12 points ahead of the Wranglers and second in the Okanagan/Shuswap conference behind the Kelowna Chiefs.
The Wranglers will have a home and away doubleheader with Chase Heat, staring at home on Jan. 25 and then going on to Chase the day after.
Chase is in the last place of the Doug Birks Division, with 11 wins and 26 points. The struggling team is third last in the league overall, two points ahead of the Creston Valley Thunder Cats of the Eddie Mountain Division and one point ahead of the Castlegar Rebels of the Neil Murdoch Division. Both teams are in the Kootenay Conference.
The Heat have also scored 117 goals throughout the season and have conceded 170. In comparison, 100 Mile House has scored 125 goals and conceded 107.
“I keep on saying it’s all practice until the playoffs. Well, we only have a month left of practice and we had what we call a truthful weekend. We have a lot of work to do,” said Hladun. “Chase, even though they’re in last place, always raise their game to play us… They’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot. They’re not that far out so we’re going to expect their ‘A’ game both nights, so we better be bringing ours.”