The 100 Mile House Wranglers played hard but in the end, they were no match for the Chase Heat at Saturday night’s season opener.
The Wranglers lost 5-2 following a highly physical game that forced several team members to leave the ice with injuries. Coach Dale Hladun said Chase was a more structured team than his Wranglers’ and it showed on the ice.
“We knew we were going to be up against it right away. Chase has been going for a while and has played a lot of games already,” Hladun said. “I knew they’d be far more structured than us and it certainly showed. They had 12 guys in their lineup who have played (in the league) before compared to our one.”
Chase kept up the pressure throughout the game, with 43 shots on the Wranglers’ goalie Casey Thomson. There were no goals in the first period, but there was a lot of action in the second, with goals by Chase’s Lucas Ouelette and Keegan Pittendreigh quickly answered by 100 Mile.
“We got a couple of nice goals. Jace Myers got a nice goal and I thought Ethan Sanders, a local fella, got a beautiful goal as well,” Hladun said.
Although the Wranglers hit their stride in the second period, Hladun said his team’s youth and inexperience began to show in the third when they were unable to match three goals in quick succession by Chase’s Jacob Blensch, Aiden Brown and Matthew Poole.
The loss of several Wranglers due to injury meant he had only three lines of players and they were tired. Thomson, who kept the Wranglers alive, was named player of the game.
“The kids were disappointed we lost but I don’t want them to beat themselves up. We do have a lot of building to do,” Hladun said. “Sometimes it’s good to stub your toe on every piece of furniture because now you know where they all are in the room. I think they realized our d-zone coverage is not very good and our communication has to improve.”
Hladun said the Wranglers tend to be average at the start of the season but expects they will become real competitors by the end of October.
The opening game was also a good chance for the players to be introduced to the Wranglers Nation, Hladun said, which turned out in force for the game with more than 300 masked and vaccinated fans in attendance.
The Wranglers are back at the South Cariboo Rec Centre this Friday, playing against the Princeton Posse at 7 p.m.