100 Mile House Wranglers coach Dale Hladun really liked the way his boys played against the Revelstoke Grizzlies in the Doug Birks Division semifinals.
The Wranglers swept the Grizzlies, but Hladun notes that for a sweep, it was a “pretty tight series.”
Even with the 9-4 victory in game 2 in 100 Mile House, he says it was only a blowout in one period when the hometown boys scored seven goals.
Noting Revelstoke has a younger club, the coach says he thought they worked hard.
“They gave us a really good push and I thought that series was beneficial for us because we needed to play on the edge.
“The boys certainly did [play on the edge] and were going to see a lot of tight games during all the rest of the series we’re hoping to see. I thought it was a great first-round series for us.”
Hladun says his team didn’t have a weak link and all of the players contributed very well.
“There were different line matches or groupings that rose each evening, but overall, everyone contributed – even our affiliate players.
“Our goaltending was strong; our defensive zone coverage was strong; and our four lines were pressuring, so it was a good series for the kids.”
During the series, the Wranglers power play came to life – going five for 11 in game 2 and two for seven in game 4, including the series winner by Cole Zimmerman.
Hladun says he’s not concerned about the power play.
“You can go zero for eight one night and get a few the next night. We’re moving the puck around well; we just have to put the puck in the net once in a while – it’s just one dimension of the game.
Noting the Wranglers don’t score a lot of power-play goals, he says the boys led the division in scoring per game during the regular season.
“We get scoring by committee; everyone is producing, so other teams can’t shadow one or two players. If they do, somebody else steps up.”
Hladun notes the penalty kill has been outstanding and they’re blocking shots, so they’re working in the “dirty” areas.
“The work zone of our team is impeccable and the fun zone, which is the scoring on the power play, that’s the pretty part we’re still working on.”
While goalie Zane Steeves played in three of the four games, the coach put Adam Derochie between the pipes for game 3 in Revelstoke, which has a noisy and raucous crowd. Hladun says Derochie rose to the occasion, played really well and picked up the overtime win.
The coach says the team structure is as good as it has been all year and the players are into the system and they all know what each other’s job is and that makes a difference.
“We’re just feeling it.”
He notes the players didn’t panic when they were behind on the score clock against Revelstoke.
“They were calm; they kept their heads and they were confident. We win games with that confidence because they know they can get it done.
“The fact they’ve only lost once since Dec. 30 shows there’s a will to win and an expectancy to win. “They believe in each other and they support each other so well. Every play is big whether it’s a blocked shot, a shot of the post or a good back check. They all recognize when somebody does something important in the game.”
Hladun says the sweep of Revelstoke was important because it gave the players time to rest and to heal from the bumps and bruises.
The Wranglers are hosting the Chase Heat for first two divisional final playoff games at the South Cariboo Cariboo Rec. Centre.
They play tomorrow (March 4) starting at 8 p.m. (an hour later than the normal start time).
The Wranglers take on the Heat in game 2 on March 5. The puck drops at 7 p.m.
Games 3 and 4 will be in Chase on March 7 and 8.
If necessary, game 5 will be in 100 Mile House, starting at 7 p.m.; game 6 will be in Chase; and game 7 will be in 100 Mile House, starting at 7 p.m.
Folks who have the first-round tickets (Revelstoke series) can go to the Wranglers office, which is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, and exchange them and some cahs for a block of second-round tickets.