“I think every person in our organization’s hockey operations needed this kick in the butt to actually move forward,” said general manager and head coach Dale Hladun, after the Wranglers lost four games since their 7-5 victory over Osoyoos on Nov. 25.
The four losses were against Revelstoke (4-2), Chase (5-2), North Okanagan (5-3) and Kelowna (9-4)
In the past four years, the franchise has faced slumps in December. Last year, the team dropped all their games in the month before winning one just before Christmas, they then went on to win eight games straight. Four years ago they lost four consecutively before Christmas before switching things up.
“I don’t know if it’s homesickness or the kids being so far away from home and they got the itch to get back and that’s something we just have to battle through,” said Hladun. “As much as you hate it, it’s just like Buckley’s Mixture. It taste’s awful but it works and this tastes awful but it’s going to work because we got to refocus and battle.”
Hladun said every team faces a period of adversity and once they bounce back they can deal with it better when it comes knocking again.
“I feel when some teams who don’t see the situation, like Kimberly when they ran the show a couple years ago, they don’t see any adversity until they faced the Wranglers and they couldn’t handle it,” he said.
Despite the four losses, the head coach said goalie Hayden Lyons and James Gordon were standouts and both are facing their own type of adversity.
Lyons was stuck behind Jakob Severson and Jared Breitkreuz in the pecking order but now that the latter has been dealt to the division-leading Chase Heat, Lyons is getting more time on the ice.
Gordon also arrived from Thailand in time for the Dec. 6 loss to Chase after travelling the world. While the coaching staff was a little worried about the 19-year-old Prince Georgian’s conditioning from lack of playing over the season, Gordon has three points in as many games.
Rob Raju is also continuing his good play, adding three points to his tally over the last two games and is closing down on last year’s tally of 38 points, with only eight more to go. With 18 assists, he’s just one shy of tying his career best. Raju has played 70 career games for the Wranglers and has scored 68 points, proving he’s a good scoring asset.
The two next games are against Sicamous and Revelstoke. The Sicamous game is away on Dec. 15 and it’s no greater time for the Wranglers to break the slump. They have won three games out of four against Sicamous, the other one being a draw.
The game against Revelstoke will be at home on Dec. 16. This may be one of the biggest games for the Wranglers who will be looking to settle the score after Revelstoke beat them 4-2 at the beginning of the month in 100 Mile House.
There will also be a teddy bear and glove toss during the Revelstoke game. The organization will donate everything tossed on the ice to several local charities, including the local hospital, the food bank and Fisher Place.