The 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) lost both of their games last week bringing them to the bottom of the Doug Birks Division. Despite the current form, head coach and general manager Dale Hladun said spirits remain confident.
“I really like the direction we’re moving in. Their spirts are still pretty confident. You would think the kids would be disappointed and they are disappointed in losing. You would think that they would be mopier, but they know they are on the cusp of turning things around,” he said.
However, Hladun admitted that his team has been struggling to score goals this month. They have scored ten goals in six games this week, six of them coming against a 6-2 win victory over Sicamous Eagles on Oct. 12. It was also their only win this month. They only managed to score two goals in the latest games. Jackson Kowblick scored one during the Wrangler’s 3-1 loss against the Columbia Valley Rockies on Oct. 18, and defenceman Eric Smith scored his first career KIHJL goal against the Kelowna Chiefs on Oct. 19. The Chiefs ended up beating the Wranglers 2-1.
Darian Long ended assisting on Smith’s goal, earning his 100th point with the Wranglers.
According to the league’s standings and statistics section, the Wranglers have scored 31 goals this season. Nine of them come from the team’s powerplay units.
“We are getting shots on net but we’re not just banging in any rebounds. I feel like we’re trying to score so much that we’re trying to pick corners and the fans probably noticed that when a shot from the sideboard misses the net, it actually kills the penalty and out of the zone. We’re going to tweak how we’re going to set up our powerplay, just to direct more shots on net.”
One thing Hladun said the team has is goaltending, particularly in Jordan Wilde who has been named the star of the game in the three games he started since arriving earlier this month.
“Jordan Wilde is huge for us. He’s a good leader for the team [and] he’s good for [Jakob] Gullmes and [Caelan] Armstrong to see just what it takes to be a veteran goalie. Not only is he a good goalie, he’s a good mentor.”
Armstrong also impressed Hladun during the 2-1 loss on Oct. 19 after sitting out for a couple of weeks. The rookie goaltender was named the star of the game for the Wranglers. He faced 32 shots.
Another upside to the Wranglers play of late, according to Hladun, is their penalty kill unit. However, it’s also revealed a problem.
“We killed so many penalties against Kelowna, So I guess I’m really happy with how our penalty kill works but we also have to quit shooting ourselves in the foot. I’ll accept penalties of battle, but some of the penalties are like – there was a poor backcheck, so it’s a slash and all of the sudden we’re killing the penalty because the guy was lazy,” he said, before going on to explain another incident. “We had a two-minute tripping penalty that turned into a 12-minute because of a player who thinks he’s suddenly going to change the referee’s mind by chirping him. In the whole world of hockey ever, when do you ever change a referee’s mind? So shut up and just go to the box and serve your two minutes.”
Forward Ryan Piva, acquired at the beginning of the month, made good work of his six-game stint with the Wranglers. He scored seven points in his short stay, but requested a trade to play closer to home. His request was honoured on Oct. 21, and Hladun traded his rights to the Kimberley Dynamiters who have given the Wranglers Brady and Austin Daniels in return.
The two brothers are both forwards and have so far, scored more points than Piva.
“He’s a point per game type player,” said Hladun of Brady, the elder of the brothers. “Austin – I’ve seen the younger brother. He’s a big strong winger, he’s 6’4” and 190 lbs. I saw him at Drayton Valley’s tryouts and he played an exhibition series. I like both of those kids. Kimberley gave us some good value for Piva and we gave Kimberely a heck of a player who wanted to play in his own area. We’re looking forward to seeing the Daniels brothers.”
— Brendan Kyle Jure (@BrendanKyleJure) October 21, 2019
The two forwards will definitely help with the scoring issue. Brady already has nine points, but his best season was last year where he finished the season with 35 points (four points came from 11 games with the Castlegar Rebels). Austin is playing his first season in the KIJHL and has so far scored 8 points in 12 games.
Defenceman Morgan Zorn has also left the team to go home and find a job.