The 100 Mile House Wranglers have one weekend of games behind them leading into their home opener on Friday, Sept. 15.
“A bit of an interesting first weekend,” says coach Dale Hladun.
The team played shorthanded in their first two games of the season, losing to both Summerland and Princeton 4-3 and 6-2 respectively.
“We only had three lines and six defencemen and one goalie for the weekend,” says Hladun.
“I thought we played okay. We’re very scrambly. We’re still not a structured team and I still feel like this is a skeleton of our club,” says Hladun.
The game against Summerland saw Travis Gook (Justin Bond) score a goal following two by the Steam at the end of the first period. The Wranglers were able to tie it up during the second period with another goal from Todd Bredo (Joel Patsey, Kevin Fillier). While the Steam were able to take the lead again with two goals in the third, Frazer Dodd answered with an unassisted goal that would round out scoring during the game.
On Saturday, against the Princeton Posse, the home team scored three goals against the newly carded Kolter Pawlick in the first period against the Wranglers. While the second period saw the Wranglers try to match the Posse in scoring — Justin Bond scored two goals in the second period — the Posse also added two. The Princeton team would take the day scoring their sixth goal in the final period.
While Hladun feels the KIJHL season starts too early — he’s still in the process of signing players who are filtering down from Junior A level camps — he says that the team is starting to come together.
“I was happy with the leadership of Justin Bond. He’s really embraced being our captain and even this week of practices. I’m just so impressed with Justin. He wants to guide these guys to a championship and that’s a big load off my shoulders knowing we have leadership like that.”
He’s expecting more players to show up this week, or be in the system to play over the weekend.
He moved defencemen Nick Nordstrom to Summerland, in order to attain goalie Jared Breitkreuz.
“Jared, I’d seen him before, he had a backup role in Summerland,” says Hladun. “Their starting goalie is pretty strong and Jared deserves to be a starting goalie. Summerland and us made a deal. They had a player who needed a bigger opportunity and we had a player that needed a bigger opportunity, so I thought it was a good move.”
Kolby Page will also be rejoining the team after trying out for a Junior A team in Saskatchewan.
Hladun says he’s also got a “strong nasty defencemen” coming from Whitecourt, Alberta.
“I saw him at provincials and thought he was quite a warrior. I’m really excited that Dawson Long has decided to become a Wrangler,” says Hladun.
“We’re starting to form. We’ve got our home opener on Friday, I think the fans will like some of the pieces we have on our roster and big Joel Patsey has caught the eye of many of our fans. He’s a big strong defenceman with a heavy shot.”
He’s also hoping to get Mackenzie Benn-Wipp in this week’s lineup.
“He’s a big kid from Whitehorse, very strong. He’s a good centreman, I really like his upside. He’s not gonna be in our league very long,” says Hladun.
“Now that we’re at home and doing practices I think it’s going to start feeling a little more comfortable and going in the right direction,” he says.
In other news, Hladun was happy to announce that several former Wranglers have made teams at higher levels.
Rob Raju and Jakob Severson will both be playing with the Lloydminster Bobcats in the Alberta Hockey League, while Clay Stevenson will be playing for the Coquitlam Express in the BC Hockey League.
“He’s pretty excited, as are we,” says Hladun.
Back at home former Wrangler Brevin Gervais, who suffered a brain hemorrhage during the season last year, will be back on the ice to drop the puck for the start of the season, says Hladun.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Brevin,” he says. “I think all the guys are excited to see Brevin.