The 100 Mile House Wranglers were unable to buck a losing streak Saturday, losing 4-3 against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks on home ice.
This loss puts the Wranglers at 0-5 following four on-the-road defeats, a fact not lost on coach Dale Hladun. Despite these setbacks, he remains confident the team will rally in the coming weeks.
“Nobody is happy when you’re 0-5 but I can certainly see light at the end of the tunnel,” Hladun said. “This was the first time our fan base has really seen this year’s team and I think they can see we’re far more skilled than last year. We have a lot of up-and-coming youth and the inexperience is what’s hurting us.”
On Saturday anticipation was high for the home opener as hundreds of fans crowded the stands to watch the Wranglers. Early on Hladun said the team took control of the ice, especially in the first period.
The Wranglers came onto the ice with plenty of aggression and energy. Ethan Davey was able to slip the puck into the Nitehawk’s net followed by Jack Mulder who scored a breakaway goal Hladun described as “beautiful” to secure the lead. Each goal was met with thunderous cheers from the crowd.
However, in the second period, the Wranglers began to give ground thanks to a series of punishing penalties. The Nitehawks tied the game with two goals but Davey was able to keep the home team ahead with a late-period goal.
Throughout the game, Hladun said he felt Davey, one of his youngest players, really lived up to his potential. In addition to the two goals he scored, Hladun said there was one play that, if it’d been a success, would have been an all-time highlight.
By the third period, Hladun said the team continued to take “dumb penalties at the worst times.” While they were able to kill most of the powerplays, the Nitehawks outshot them first tying the game and later pulling ahead with two minutes left. Not even pulling the goalie was enough for the Wranglers to tie the game and force it into overtime.
Wranglers goalie Ryder Gregga, who faced 51 shots on his net, deserves a lot of respect for his performance, Hladun said.
Hladun said that in the coming weeks he’ll be coaching his players to work as a team. Many of them are used to being the star players from their old teams but on a Junior B level, he said victory comes from a strong line of five players working together.
“We got to learn to play away from the puck. They’re buying in but now they realize not everyone can be open all the time,” Hladun said. “You always want the win but we got to make sure the process is going right. If that’s right, the wins will come.”
This season Hladun said he’s adopting a “learn or leave” policy for the team. If players can’t get rid of their bad habits, he said he’ll be forced to let them go.
Hladun said the team is in for a real test as they prepare for a doubleheader this Friday and Saturday against the Revelstoke Grizzlies. Most of the Grizzlies’ current line-ups are previous KIJHL champions.
“I do think the guys will rise to it and for better or for worse Revelstoke last year only lost six games and three of them were to 100 Mile in 100 Mile,” Hladun said. “So we’re hoping some of that magic has stayed.”
Providing the team with an extra boost is the return of Nathan Bohmer, who left 100 Mile mid-season for Junior A. Hladun said Bohmer is a talented player and he’s excited to see him back on the ice.