The 100 Mile House Wranglers will officially play the Chase Heat in the first round of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) playoffs after winning two of their last three games.
“The boys have been playing really solid hockey,” said Dale Hladun, head coach and general manager. “They are very committed to a team effort and I am so impressed with all of them. There haven’t been any weak links in our line up these last few games so I’m really happy with how we’re going into the playoffs.”
The first game was against Revelstoke Grizzlies on Feb. 14. Coming off a 6-1 win over Revelstoke just two days prior, the Wranglers went in confident and according to Hladun, the two teams played one of the best games of hockey most fans would ever watch. He said the game was a toe-to-toe battle, with pucks banging off goal posts, scoring chances from both teams and even a fight thrown in. Darian Long, a forward with the Wranglers, ended up having to defend himself in a fight against Revelstoke’s much bigger Aiden Cornell.
Cory Loring and Jackson Kowblick gave the Wranglers the lead in the first period, however, Brandon Kasdorf and Raymond Speerbrecker drew the game 2-2 in the second period. After that, the game would not be decided until the second period of overtime, where Kasdorf finally broke the deadlock with his second goal. Only 40 seconds remained on the clock.
Wranglers goalie, Jordan Wilde, was named as his team’s star of the game after facing 46 shots and saving all but three of them.
“We got one more shot at them this coming weekend in [the] regular season here (Feb. 21) before we may or may not see them in the playoffs. It’s tough to say because we play Chase in the first round, that’s our focus now.”
The second game of the weekend was against the North Okanagan Knights, who came to the game without a full roster. Because of that, Hladun and the Wranglers planned on outworking them and tiring them out for three periods of hockey. Hladun said the Knights refused to and worked hard right until the end.
“I was quite impressed with the North Okanagan Knights,” said Hladun. “We gave them a bit of a chance to tie the game late with two stupid penalties we took but guys like Kolby Page and Darian Long blocking shots on the penalty kill and the stellar play of both our goaltenders over the last few days were key to some of our victories.”
The game ended up 3-1 in favour of the Wranglers. Page, Khale Skinner and Cody Barnes scored the goals for the Wranglers.
On Feb. 17, the Wranglers took on the Osoyoos Coyotes at home and dominated them to the score of 8-2.
“We were just on a roll,” said Hladun.
Eleven players ended up on the score sheet, a few of them getting more than one point. Quinn Mulder, Cory Loring had three-point games, scoring two goals and an assist. Barnes scored one goal and two assists. Jack Steward had three assists. Multiple players like Page, Aidan Morrison, Khale Skinner, and Chase Vancoughnett-Lafleur had two points.
“That’s four different lines of players getting on the game sheet. That’s a good sign when the depth of your whole team is contributing to the scoring.”
The Wranglers still have three games left to play in the regular season. Hladun said he plans on giving the more senior players a rest and will be playing a few affiliate players. Mostly, this allows the more regular players to get over some of the bumps and bruises they have collected during the season.
“To win this championship, it’s four rounds of best-of-seven series that have to be done in nine days. It’s a true marathon. A lot of times it’s not just the best team that wins it all, but the healthiest team and we are trying to address our health to be ready for the playoffs,” explained Hladun.