The 100 Mile House Wranglers are still chasing Chase in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) but have made a good start in 2020 with a record of 2-1-1, with the loss coming at the sticks of the very team they were chasing on Jan. 10 before managing a tie against them on Jan. 14.
“I was very pleased with the boys’ efforts in both games this past weekend,” said Dale Hladun, the general manager and head coach of the Wranglers. “The game versus Chase was a very tight game. I felt our guys did a good job keeping the puck deep in the offensive zone and using our points well on plays.”
He added he was also pleased with their penalty killing efforts, especially after they had just started practising a new method and it was the first time it was put to the test.
The fact the Wranglers didn’t win against Chase was called unfortunate by Hladun, because he said the team played well enough to win.
Forwards Jackson Kowblick and Kaden Dempsey scored a goal each in the 4-2 loss. The teams entered the third period with a 2-2 draw, but unfortunately, the Wranglers collapsed in the dying minutes in the game, conceding Chase’s third goal with only 53 seconds left and the fourth with 33 seconds left.
“Late in the game, we were pressing their club deep in their own end when one of their kids drifted toward their bench showing pain in his face for a line change. As he approached their bench for a change at the back gate, [Colton] Nikiforuk jumped on the ice early from the front gate which placed him well behind our defencemen and open for a loose puck they shot out of their zone. This fortunate play for Chase became the game-winning goal.”
The game against Kamloops Storm on Jan. 11 was a different story, with the Wranglers comping up on top with a 6-2 victory.
“I felt we played a solid three periods of hockey with all lines contributing in a good forecheck and good defensive zone play.”
New player Cory Loring was one of the scorers for 100 Mile, along with Dempsey, Ryan McMann, Quinn Mulder, Nic Flinton and Kolby Page. A key player though was defenceman Aidan Morrison, who assisted on three goals and was named the star of the game.
Hladun called him a huge positive factor for his club in both games, adding that he was adept at carrying the puck out of our zone and was strong on both the penalty kill and power play.
He also mentioned Dempsey, who scored a couple of “beautiful” goals in both games. Jordan Wilde, the team’s starting goalie, was also given some plaudits with Hladun saying he was his “usual strong self and continues to show why he is among the league elite in net.”
Loring, who joined the team in time for the first game against Chase, was just the lift the Wranglers needed heading down the stretch to the playoffs.
“He brings size, skill, toughness and leadership to our room. Cory had an immediate impact with his play both with and without the puck.”
The 20-year-old, who came from the Summerland Steam, was named the game star of the first Chase game, which he scored his first assist in. He was also considered as the game star for the Kamloops game.
In the second game against Chase, started with an exciting first period with two goals from 100 Mile House and Chase each with the Wranglers goals coming at the hands of Kolby Page and Jackson Kowblick. Kowblick managed to get the Wranglers back in the lead with an early goal in the second period before two goals by Chase, giving them the lead. A final goal by Cody Barnes in the third period tied the game at 4-4.
There were some more changes on the roster. Hladun said they moved Tristan Williams to the Dawson Creek Canucks in the North West Junior Hockey League, a six-team Junior B league team with franchises from B.C. and Alberta.
Brandt Fiske also left the team, opting to return to Saskatchewan and play for the Carrot River Outback Thunder in the Prairie Junior Hockey League.