The 100 Mile Wranglers have largely been successful in their past ten games, coming away with a 7-2-1 record in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL). One of those seven wins includes a 5-3 victory over KIJHL titleholders, Revelstoke Grizzlies.
“We had a meeting a while back after we lost to Kelowna, just with a ten-game plan and what we got coming up and how we should practice and how we should react to things,” said the general manager and head coach, Dale Hladun. “The boys certainly buy-in and it all starts with our leadership. Our 20-year-olds have been fantastic.”
The 20-year-olds are captain Kolby Page and assistant captains Harley Bootsma and Darian Long. Hladun described Page as the “straw that stirs our drink,” but Long and Bootsma have played a large role in the Wranglers’ success this season in Page’s injury-riddled start to the season.
Hladun also talked about how the team has tightened its discipline.
“I know it was a bit frustrating for some of our fans with the amount of penalties and the undisciplined play. We want to be a tough team to play against and the boys are starting to see the value in being physical but they’re also starting to understand to pick and choose better on some of the decisions,” he said.
He added that he doesn’t mind when players take penalties on battles, but the misconducts and behind the play calls have got to go.
Hladun pointed out that the two games this weekend are what the team could achieve if they keep their discipline.
“We changed our forecheck a bit and we’ve certainly been working on our power play as you can tell. They’re starting to get some benefit out of it,” he said.
The Wranglers beat the Summerland Steam on Nov. 15 and the Revelstoke Grizzlies on Nov. 16. Both games ended in a 5-3 favour to the Wranglers.
“Revelstoke is a damn good team and they are known to come out hard and they did. They dominated. They came in the first period and outshot us 15 to four. I don’t think we got a shot on net until the 10-minute mark but Jordan Wilde helped us weather the storm and that’s what you need in championship goaltending – a guy like him.”
In between periods, Hladun and the coaching staff would tell the team that this is the pace they should expect from the championship teams that will be in 100 Mile this spring for the Cyclone Taylor Cup and that the team has to rise to it and have to learn how to contain them.
“You just don’t hit them, you have to hit and pin your man. You can backcheck them but you go to take them right to the net,” he said. “The guys went right from there and they took charge of the whole second period. It was the exact opposite. It’s neat to see that they rose to it.”
Darian Long was the star of the weekend for the Wranglers, scoring five goals in the two games. He scored three of them against Revelstoke.
Long was also named one of three of the KIHJL stars of the week.
“It felt like finally getting into the groove. It’s also great to have our captain ‘Pager’ [Kolby Page] back and play with him again,” said Long in an interview with the KIJHL. “Obviously was nice to have a personal, good weekend but all that truly matters was we won both games.”
Hladun also fingered Bootsma as being ‘amazing’ for his team.
“But there’s also been some subtle things like the rotation of our defencemen has been good,” he said.
The Wranglers take on the Sicamous Eagles on Nov. 21 at home. The opening face-off is at 6 p.m. After that, the North Okanagan Knights will be visiting the South Cariboo Rec Centre on Nov. 23.