The 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League split the first weekend of February with a 4-2 loss against the Sicamous Eagles and a 4-0 win over the North Okanagan Knights.
“In Sicamous, we had moments of good effort,” said Dale Hladun, head coach and general manager. “We got to give them more respect than we do. They can be dangerous. They beat Revelstoke (Grizzlies), they pushed Kelowna (Chiefs) to overtime and they got an older team than us and when those veterans want to play, they can play. I just thought we should have done better.”
Forward Harley Bootsma opened up the scoring on behalf of the Wranglers, with a goal in the middle of the first period. He was assisted by fellow forwards Julien Dewey and Nico Hemming.
Hladun said he has been happy with the development of Bootsma, a 20-year-old from Salmon Arm, saying he has improved leaps and bounds every day.
It didn’t take long for the Eagles to respond, with Colton Yaremko scoring with just over six minutes to go in the first period. However, Cody Barnes of the Wranglers answered the call, scoring his ninth goal of the season. C.J. Zimmerman and Aidan Morrison assisted.
It was the last time the Wranglers would score in the contest, with only Josh Olson of the Eagles scoring in the second period and Yaremko scored his second of the game in the third. Sean Thornton scored his team’s fourth goal in the dying seconds of the game.
The ending of the game got a little rough after Garrett Hilton, the team’s leading scorer, was hit from behind.
“I was really proud of how our guys jumped to stick up for him. (Jayce) Schweizer got involved with the player (who hit Hilton), as did Darian Long. There were some fights and I thought was good. It’s what woke us up,” said Hladun.
On Feb. 2, the Wranglers travelled to Armstrong to take on the North Okanagan Knights, who are on the bottom of the standings of the Okanagan Division.
Both teams kept each other off the scoreboard for the first two periods but the deadlock was broken in the second period when Nic Flinton of the Wranglers scored his fourth goal of the season. The 17-year-old from Williams Lake was assisted by Barnes and Zimmerman.
Garrett Hilton, 100 Mile’s leader in scoring, scored his 31st goal, with the help of Nico Hemming and the returning James Gordon.
Gordon played for the Wranglers in the previous two seasons, combining for 60 points in 58 games played.
Hladun said he tried to get the 20-year-old forward into the lineup against Sicamous but BC Hockey did not approve Gordon’s carding until that very night.
“James has been going to school at Trinity Western University and he’s been playing rec hockey, but he’s willing to come out and play a few games,” said Hladun. “It’s good to have James back. He’s not a full-time player for us. He can only come to a few games, but anytime you can put James Gordon in the lineup your team is much stronger.”
Flinton scored again for his fifth of the season, with Barnes and Ben Keon adding the helpers.
The final goal came from Jayce Schweizer on the powerplay.
Miles Minor stopped all the 21 shots he faced, getting his second shutout of the season.
The 100 Mile House Wranglers will play the Kamloops Storm in back-to-back games on home turf (Feb. 8 and 9).
Hladun said they are using these two games as playoff practice, as Kamloops could be their first-round opponent in the playoffs depending on how the battle between Sicamous and Kamloops for third place shakes out.
“We’re kind of looking at it as a playoff weekend to prepare for them,” he said.
At the end of January, Long was announced as the player of the Okanagan/Shuswap player of the month after scoring eight goals and nine assists in eight games. In total, Long has 20 goals and 26 assists in 39 games.
“My goodness, I am so happy with that,” said Hladun. “Darian is so deserving of that. He’s got like what – 17 points in 8 games and penalty minutes and got in a fight. He’s doing it all. He’s a force out there.”