The 100 Mile House Wranglers have had an amazing start to the regular Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) season, especially when you consider this is an extremely young team.
There are 14 rookies on the squad, with seven of them attending Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School this year.
So, this is a radically different squad than the one that took us on that magical mystery ride last season and won the division, conference, KIJHL, provincial and Western Canada championships.
That was a seasoned, experienced and hard-nosed group of players who played for their teammates and their fans.
Many of them got to build their legacies in the final year of junior hockey.
They also gave their fans the legacy of winning all the banners and cups that can be won by a KIJHL team in just three years.
So, the new lads don’t have a lot experience in the KIJHL, but some of last year’s players are back in the lineup and that gives the young guns a foundation to build on.
Coach and general manager Dale Hladun knows this team is different than last year’s squad.
However, he’s excited about this team because they are fast, great passers and can make plays.
“They’re going to be exciting to watch and when they start putting the puck in the net, they’re going to be real scary in this league.”
While they don’t have any experience in the KIJHL, he notes all of these young players have experienced top-level competition in their bantam and midget hockey careers.
“They know what it’s like to play at a higher level and a lot of them have won provincial championships. They definitely have the will to win;
there’s a lot of champions on this crew.”
They will gain experience in the KIJHL as we move through the season, he explains.
Noting all the games the Wranglers are playing this season seem to really matter to the opponents.
“Because we’re defending Western Canadian champions, there’s a lot more intensity, more celebrations if they knock us off or score a goal.
“Everybody is trying to send us a message, and we’ll be ready for it.”
Hladun says there is no way to prepare his young players for the intensity that other teams will be bringing against the Wranglers.
“They just have to experience it and they’re starting to get it already.
“By the end of October, they’ll certainly understand what the league is about and who’s who in the zoo.”
The Wranglers last game was against the Kamloops Storm on Oct. 5 and they were chomping at the bit because they lost three games in a row.
However, the Wranglers handed them a 5-2 loss in Kamloops.
James Gordon, who was selected as the Wranglers’ player of the game, opened the scoring for 100 Mile House at 18:39, with the assist going to Jason Bond.
Kamloops stormed back with two goals – one in each of the first and second periods.
However, it was all Wranglers from there, with Stephen Egan (unassisted) tying it at two apiece, and Nick Nordstrom (Gordon, Bond) scoring the winning goal in the second stanza.
Austin Turner (Colton Thomas, Nordstrom) scored a power play marker midway through the third period, and Thomas (Todd Bredo) scored an empty net goal.
The Wranglers host the Kelowna Chiefs on Oct. 15, starting at 7 p.m.