100 Mile House Wranglers fans probably wouldn’t want it any other way.
Round 1 of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs are set, and the local club is facing off, for the second straight season, against its Doug Birks Division rivals – the Chase Heat.
The Wranglers have the third seed again this year and Chase is seeded second. The Kamloops Storm won the division and host the fourth seeded Sicamous Eagles.
While the Wranglers took the best-of-seven series in five games last season, Chase won the 2014-15 regular season series between them, five games to three.
Five of those games needed overtime.
Needless to say, the Wranglers are readying for a real close series, where every shift is going to matter.
“They’re studying us and we’re studying them,” says 100 Mile House coach Dale Hladun. “There is a lot of pride in both teams. She’s going to come down to a battle.”
Chase had the KIJHL’s most efficient power play. The coach is stressing discipline and practising the penalty kill ahead of Game 1 in Chase tomorrow night (Feb. 20). Hladun mentions Kaleb Boyle and Cody Hodges, with 52 and 59 points respectively, as two Chase forwards that know how to score.
A healthy line up is what the Wranglers have going for them.
“I’ve been coaching in the this league for a long time and this is the healthiest roster I’ve ever had going into the playoffs,” Hladun says. “I think every game is going to be very tight and very entertaining for the fans. Whether you’re a Chase fan or a Wrangler fan, it’s going to be some good hockey.
“The guys are chomping at the bit,” he adds. “They can’t wait to get going.”
Game 2 is Feb. 21 in Chase.
Game 3 is Feb. 23 in 100 Mile House.
Game 4 is Feb. 24 in 100 Mile House.
Game 5 (if necessary) is Feb. 26 in Chase.
Game 6 (if necessary) is Feb. 27 in 100 Mile House.
Game 7 (if necessary) is Feb. 28 in Chase.
Wranglers forward Justin Bond will miss the first two games, serving a suspension for accumulating too many head contact penalties.
Haldun says he’s excited for the 20-year-old players on the team, the guys playing their final junior hockey season: Devan Suidy, Cole Weber and Micky Turner.
“Those three have been really embracing the last stretch here. Suidy with that hat trick the other game [Feb. 9 against the Revelstoke Grizzlies]. Micky Turner was so strong against Kamloops [on Feb. 15], until he got bulldogged into the ice and got his teeth bashed in. He has been special to us. I’m so happy for Micky. Weber has been such a good leader. Our dressing room and our bench is a different spot with a different focus without Cole Weber.
“I couldn’t ask for three better 20-year-olds heading into the playoffs.”
In Kamloops on Feb. 15, the Wranglers won 4-2 to wrap up the season.
Suidy, Austin Turner, Jayden Syrota and Michael Lynch found the back of the net. Assists went to Brett Harris (4), Syrota, Tyler Garcia (2) and Tate Page.
In Chase on Feb. 13, the Heat handed the Wranglers a 3-1 loss. Suidy scored for 100 Mile, with assists by Lynch and A.Turner. Goalie Kristian Stead had a busy night turning away 39 of 42 shots. Two Heat goals came on its efficient, league-leading power play.