The 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Hockey League (KIJHL) kicked off their season with a punch, winning their two first games of the season.
They started with a 4-0 win over the Princeton Posse, a team that includes three former Wranglers in Jasyen MacLean, Hayden Lyons, and Quinn Garrison, on Sept. 14, then followed it up with a 6-1 victory over the Osoyoos Coyotes on Sept. 15.
“I think the weekend went pretty good,” said head coach and general manager Dale Hladun. “I thought we threw the puck around really good. I really thought we scored by committee. Everyone was involved, I was really impressed with everybody on our roster this weekend.”
Hladun pointed out several of his players as having an impact on the two games, including the new captain, Kolby Page.
The forward scored two goals against Princeton but it was how he conducted himself off the ice that Hladun liked most, saying he’s got a handle on the dressing room and leading the rookies on the team, along with Darian Long.
“I thought he showed well in his first game. He’s pretty calm, tracks the puck well and he controls his rebounds,” Hladun said, before giving the 18-year-old the highest praise a goalie could possibly get. “He’s built in the Carey Price mould.”
Tristan Williams, a 17-year-old forward from Fraser Lake, was the first Wrangler to score this season.
“He hasn’t played at a high hockey level [and] he hasn’t had a lot of coaching in his minor hockey days, so we got to be patient in his hockey development on how to play system-wise, but the one thing Tristan can do is he scores and he gets pucks to the net. Sure enough, his first game he gets a goal. That doesn’t surprise me and I’m happy for him,” said Hladun.
Despite the two wins, there is one thing Hladun would like to work on on the ice.
“We had a line that stayed on the ice for too long. They should have changed and they had a couple opportunities and they didn’t, then they’re dead tired and it’s suddenly 5-1,” said Hladun of the lone goal they conceded over the weekend. “Sometimes they just have to learn through the pain.”
The Wranglers are also still a few men short and hope to add at least three more bodies by the end of October. With only 19 players dressing, the team will be looking to add some depth in case of injuries and suspensions, which are bound to happen.
It’s an interesting match-up because the team has not faced a team from the other conference in the past couple of years, a fact not lost on Hladun.
“This will be a good test,” he said. “They’re always in the conversation to be on the top of our league. Beaver Valley is so established and so is Nelson and Castlegar. There is such a rivalry over there and then with the strength of Grand Forks coming along, like that’s a really competitive division. The fact that they compete hard every night against a tough team certainly helps sharpen your sword so to speak.”
The game against Beaver Valley will be the South Cariboo Recreation Centre and starts at 7 p.m.