The 100 Mile House Wranglers have set a winning tone for the 2023/2024 season after beating the Princeton Posse in back-to-back exhibition games.
On Friday, Sept. 8 the Wranglers and the Posse fought a tough overtime game with the Wranglers winning 2-1 in a shootout. They followed up this hard-fought victory with 7-0 blowout the next night, much to the delight of Wrangler Nation.
“Usually pre-season you’re just trying to get a read on your guys. Our first game against the Posse on Friday night, I swear, it seemed like Game Seven in the conference final,” Wranglers head coach Dale Hladun said. “It was toe to toe with big hits, great goalie safes and lots of noise, it was crazy. The competition level for both the teams were through the roof, it was the first game of the year and wasn’t even regular season.”
The Wranglers set the tone for the matchup early Friday night. Defencemen and forwards alike crosschecked and body slammed the Posse’s players into the boards to thunderous cheers from the crowd with each hit. The two teams got so heated throughout the first and second periods that the referees had to break up scuffles more than once.
Despite the pressure from the Wranglers, the Posse scored the first goal of the night midway through the first period. Nathan Bohmer answered this goal in the second period, tying the game after slipping the puck past the Posse’s goalie.
Throughout the third period, the teams played a less physical game as both sought to score a decisive goal. In the end, the win was secured by Wrangler rookie Zach Gull who scored in the shootout. Hladun praised goalie Ryder Gregga for shutting the Posse out of the shootout.
“He came with the mental preparation that he wants to be in the elite of our league and he showed it with his first game. Ryder won that for us in the shootout, he made a lot of big saves.”
Hladun said that their victory on Saturday was because they treated Friday’s game like a playoff game. The Posse, who held their training camp at the South Cariboo Rec Centre this year, had just come off three days of hard practices.
“I said let’s visualize this like it’s playoffs where you play the same opponent a couple of times in a row. On Friday I told them to drive the net, finish hits and battle because that’s how you wear your opponents down for the next game.”
That strategy paid off Saturday as, despite Princeton’s talent and good coaches, they were unable to prevent the Wranglers from scoring seven goals. Despite the Posse being tired, Hladun said the Wrangler’s goalie Ivan Tolsma earned that shutout, facing 20 shots on net in the third period alone.
After a performance like this Hladun is looking forward to seeing how his team performs in the regular season against rivals like the Revelstoke Grizzlies and Kamloops Storm.
“We have a lot of good pieces. We’ve got size, we’ve got speed, we’ve got goaltending and we’re deep on defense. In past seasons, it’s taken until almost until late November to build a roster like this and we’re not even at the end of September and our roster is this strong.”