Fans packed the South Cariboo Rec. Centre and witnessed a first.
The 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League played its inaugural season home opener against the Chase Heat on Sept. 21, dropping the contest 5-1 after beating the Heat 3-0 on the road the night before.
Did a loss make the night any less special for the 682 in attendance?
“Absolutely not,” answers Tom Bachynski, Wranglers club president.
“To be able to sit down and look around and see how many people were excited about it, how many people want to high five you and fist pump you for getting a team here – the community responded in probably a bigger way than I expected.
Now, we have to build on that momentum. It was very exciting. I didn’t sleep much Saturday night.”
The loss moves the Wranglers’ record to 3-2 after playing the first four regular season games on the road. Coach/general manager Doug Rogers says penalty trouble and injuries were issues against the Heat. Jayden Syrota was lost to injury in a previous game, while Henry Hart was ejected after a fight and Kenny Nordstrom received a 10 minute misconduct.
“When any team loses three of their top 5 defencemen for an extended period of time it creates match-up problems. We are not deep enough where we can lose those three defenceman and compete in this league. It comes down to discipline and composure and it was lacking on Saturday night.”
Luke Santerno scored 100 Mile House’s first and only goal of the contest to tie the game 1-1 in the second period. Tyson Levesque assisted on the play.
The Wranglers had chances offensively throughout the game, having a goal disallowed and also a penalty shot and power play opportunities. Chase had a 2-1 lead going into the third before notching three unanswered tallies. Shots on goal were even at 28-28.
“Their goalie played well, but we needed to get more traffic in front, and this didn’t happen,” Rogers says.
“We will need our work ethic to get back to where it was on Friday night (Sept. 20 in Chase) if we want to have success this upcoming weekend.”
The Wranglers host the Golden Rockets (0-5) Friday (Sept. 27) and then host the North Okanagan Knights (3-0-1) here on Saturday (Sept. 28).
Puck drop is 7 p.m. both nights.
Bachynski says a 3-2 record to start an expansion club season is something to be proud of.
“Those are good numbers. We have a good team. Our coaches have worked tirelessly to come up with the best possible talent to put on the ice for us.
The rewards will create themselves. I’m very proud of where we are and the direction we’re tracking in.”
Editor’s Note: 100 Mile House Wranglers fans will be able to see all of the 100 Mile House Free Press Wranglers’ coverage on the home page of our website at www.100milefreepress.net. Just click on the “click here for more info” button to “Find out about the exciting launch of a Jr. B Hockey team.”