The 100 Mile Wranglers have made it to the second round of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League [KIJHL] playoffs after beating the Sicamous Eagles in Game 5 on March 5.
“Well even though we won four games to one it certainly was a much tougher series than the record shows,” said Dale Hladun, head coach and general manager of the Wranglers. “Other than the first and last game of the series, we never had the lead. We had to come back. So that tells you the series could have gone longer but full kudos to the kids from both teams on how well both teams played.”
Game 5 was a 3-2 affair, with the Wranglers winning it in the third period of overtime with a goal from Jayce Schweizer, a forward. The goal was assisted by C.J. Zimmerman and Nic Flinton, who scored the game’s opening goal. Garrett Hilton scored the second goal with a little help from his friends, Joel Patsey and Schweizer.
However, the key player in the series didn’t make it on the score sheet but according to Hladun, his influence is undeniable.
“In Game 2, Kolby [Page] blocked a shot and got rushed to the hospital. He had trouble with his ribs. He was in a lot of pain,” said Hladun of the team’s captain, who sat out Game 3 and was told by doctors he would be out for four to six weeks.
“He sat out two days and we did put him through some tests and he had some pain, but he could play through it. His leadership was crazy good in the locker room, [and] you wouldn’t know how hurt he was the way he played. We even challenged some of the other kids because Kolby ended up outhitting and even blocking more shots than healthy guys in our line up.”
Hladun said Page has been showing the rookies what it’s like to be a champion, something Page oozes. Page is the only Wrangler on the team from the 2015-16 lineup that won the club’s first and only KIJHL title, as well as the Cyclone Taylor Cup and the Keystone Cup.
Coaches are needed to create a blueprint, said Hladun, but sometimes they need to know when to get out of the way and let the players take over with leadership. He said the older players have been saying the right things and guiding the younger players.
There wasn’t much he and assistant coach Chris Langton could do other than call out the line changes, said Hladun, calling the team leaders outstanding going so far as calling it an exciting aspect to look towards for their second-round matchup against the Revelstoke Grizzlies.
Another part is the play of goalie Jakob Gullmes, who has been one of the best playoff performers in the entire league.
In the five games he has played so far, he has posted four wins with a Goals Against Average of 1.55 and a save percentage of .939.
However, Hladun has called for his players to continue elevating their play.
“We didn’t win a single game against them [Revelstoke] this season. So we got a lot of work to do. We’re not going to blow anyone out and that’s a thing we’ve talked about, so we have to be better defensively and we got to wait for our opportunities,” he said. “We have to forecheck and find our powerplay again. It’s been struggling a bit but I think that’s because we haven’t practised in days.”
The Grizzlies are a deep team with a lot of offensive upsides. While they don’t have any players in the top ten of regular season scoring, they have eight in the top 50, all with more than 40 points.
Their starting goalie, Liam McGarva, has also been a tough nut to crack. He was first in the league for wins with 27 wins, three of them were shutouts. In the playoffs, he has won all three games he has played and holds a GAA of 1.00 and a save percentage of .935.
The first game of the series will be at Revelstoke on March 8.
The following games are:
March 9 at Revelstoke
March 12 at 100 Mile
March 13 at 100 Mile
March 15 at Revelstoke
March 16 at 100 Mile
March 17 at Revelstoke
All games start at 7 p.m.
Elsewhere in the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference, the Revelstoke Grizzlies swept the Kamloops Storm 4-0, outscoring them 23-4. The Kelowna Chiefs swept the Osoyoos Coyotes, with the latter only managing to score three goals opposed to the Chiefs’ 21. The Summerland Steam also eliminated the Princeton Posse winning four games in a row after losing Game 1 6-6 in overtime. The Posse wasn’t able to score more than two goals in the games after.
In the Kootenay Conference, the Kimberly Dynamiters also swept the Golden Rockets. The Fernie Ghostriders and Beaver Valley Nitehawks are also teams to sweep the competition in their first round of playoff contention, eliminating the Columbia Valley Rockies and Grand Forks Border Bruins. Spokane Braves, the league’s only American team, is poised to upset the Nelson Leafs.