Since returning from the Christmas break, the 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) have gone 3-1 including a 7-0 win over the North Okanagan Knights on Jan. 5.
The first two games were a 5-0 loss against the Kimberley Dynamiters and a 2-1 win over the Spokane Braves on neutral ice in Kamloops during the KIJHL College Show Case on Dec. 28 and 29.
Head Coach Dale Hladun said the 5-0 loss was a little tighter than it appeared and that the Dynamiters’ keeper, Adam Andersen, made some key saves to shutout the Wranglers. He went on to say the team’s powerplay units did everything right but score.
“I thought we could have chewed away at them but it was a good game and in fairness, Kimberley is really damn good, so we had a tough one there,” said Hladun.
Kimberley is the defending KIJHL champion and is currently in second place with a record of 29-4-1-0-0 for 59 points.
Spokane’s goaltending, provided by Elliott Marshall, was almost as hard for the Wranglers to crack.
Hladun said Marshall really stood on his head, despite the Wranglers getting 48 shots on net compared to the Wranglers goalie, Jakob Gullmes, who only faced 23.
The two goals for the Wranglers came from forwards Cody Barnes and Darian Long.
Overall, Hladun was happy with the team’s effort and how the showcase panned out. Scouts from colleges and Junior A teams were in attendance and Hladun said the scouts had some discussions or showed some interest with some of the Wranglers players.
“There is certainly value in it,” he said of the event. “I think there is a lot of potential in it. I think we got to review when we run it, review how we run it but there is something there. It gave our league a lot more exposure even for recruiting in the future.”
After the showcase, the team returned to 100 Mile House for a New Years Day showdown against the Sicamous Eagles, winning 5-0. Hladun described the game as “team-building,” and “spirited” with some cheap shots and a lot of chirping.
“They [Sicamous] were trying to battle us for second place [in the division] and the boys wanted to keep them in third. I was really impressed with our effort. All of our kids played hard,” he said. “We did run the show 5-0 and good for Gullmes to get the shutout.”
Joel Patsey, Kolby Page, Nic Flinton, Nico Hemming and Darian Long scored a goal in the game. It was Flinton’s first goal of the season, as well as Patsey’s first in the seven games he has played with the Wranglers so far this season.
Originally, Patsey was supposed to return to the Langley Riverman of the British Columbia Hockey League, but will instead stick in 100 Mile House for the rest of the season.
“He’s rehabbed well but he’s also a very proud man and wasn’t positive if he’s on the top of his game,” said Hladun.
The team stuck with the same energy to beat the North Okanagan Knights on Jan. 5, scoring seven goals.
Long got a hat-trick in the game and two assists.
Two of his goals came from behind the net.
“I was bugging him on the bench. I said: ‘Are you working for Cariboo Recycling now?’ He’s like ‘What do you mean?’ and I said ‘Well, you’re collecting nothing but garbage today,’” recalled Hladun. “A lot of things went our way but the line of Page, [Garrett] Hilton and Long are really showcasing themselves as one of the best lines in maybe the league.”
Page and Hilton also had five points in the game, with Page getting one goal and four helpers and Hilton getting a brace and three assists.
However, Hladun said there’s a lot of hidden heroes who don’t get on the game sheet, like defencemen Kyle Haugo and Ryan McMann. The former was described as being a valuable locker room presence and leader, while the latter keeps the crease clean and keeps the puck out of the zone.
The Wranglers will play an away game against Chase on Jan. 11 but returns home to play Kamloops the next day. They will also play against the Sicamous Eagles again on Jan. 15 at the South Cariboo Recreation Centre.