The 100 Mile House Wranglers and the Port Moody Panthers played to a 4-4 deadlock at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre on Sept. 3, and followed it up with a 5-3 loss on Sunday afternoon.
The home-town lads jumped out of the gate in the first period with a 3-1 lead.
However, it was 4-3 for the Wranglers at the end of the second frame, and the visitors scored the lone goal of the third stanza to knot the score at four apiece.
In the second game on Sept. 4, the Wranglers gave up three goals in the first period to the Panthers who swarmed the nets and took advantage of a young defensive corps.
The Wranglers retaliated with three goals of their own in the second period.
Fraser Dodd notched the first one with assists going to Ryan Friesen and Justin Bond.
Garrett Hilton narrowed the gap to 3-2 with assists going to Todd Bredo and Bond.
Bond tied the score at three apiece with the assist going to Cody Swann.
The Wranglers controlled the flow of the play during the second stanza, but took a few momentum-killing penalties.
Port Moody got two unanswered markers in the third for the 5-3 victory.
Both Wranglers goalies – Josh Beigel and Clay Stevenson – played well, and while the shots were not overwhelming at 31 between them as they played 30 minutes each, the Panthers shots were in close.
Both goalies made outstanding saves when one or two Panthers were in all alone on them.
Wranglers vs Grizzlies
On Sept. 6, the local boys faced off against the Revelstoke Grizzlies in Lumby and the game ended in a 4-4 deadlock.
The Wranglers went up 3-0, but the Grizzlies answered with four markers to take the lead.
The 100 Mile lads notched a goal late in the second period and there was no scoring in the third.
Wranglers Club president Tom Bachynski says it was a “greasy” game with a couple fights.
“I guess Revelstoke was looking for revenge [after last year’s playoffs].”
The Wranglers swept the Grizzlies in last year’s Doug Birks Division semifinals.
Noting this year’s scenario was similar to last year’s Main Camp, head coach/general manager Dale “Duner” Hladun says they had a small main camp because most of his guys aren’t in 100 Mile House yet. That’s because his recruits and some of last year’s players are trying out at Junior A camps.
There are a lot of players away, he explains, and there are some others he has identified who are still in the hunt for making Junior A.
“I certainly encourage them to stay at that level. The longer they can stay at a higher level, the better player we may get.
“From what we have now and the returning vets, we are going to be really high-end skill up front. On the back end, I have my eye on some defencemen, but we have get some veteran defencemen.”
Duner says he has a couple of good young D-men, but he needs some veteran blue-liners and adds they will come from trades or players who are left over after the Junior A camps.
Noting he has three good goalies in camp, Duner says the coaching staff is going to make some decisions before the regular season starts.
Noting this year’s pre-season was very similar to last year, he adds they didn’t four or five key players until the regular season was well under way.
“It takes a while for some of the kids to come. Austin Turner and Stephen Egan aren’t here yet because it costs money to play here, so they’re putting in an extra week of work.”
Duner adds all of the teams are looking for defencemen. Noting exhibition games for the Prairie teams end on Sept. 18, he says there are that many players are still going to be available.
“I’ll say our team will be really formed by the end of September or the middle of October. That’s exactly the way it was last year.”
Noting the Lower Mainland teams have been practising since Aug. 12, the coach says most of the Port Moody players are signed already.
He adds it was funny the way the Panthers were so serious about everything – calling timeouts, pulling their goaltender and challenging the refs on calls.
“And how much they cheered when they beat us. It was like they thought they were going to take the Keystone Cup with them.
“You know what. I think that is going to be a sign of the times. I think every team has marked the date on the calendar when they’re facing us. We’re going to see the A game from everybody.”
The Wranglers are the defending 2015/16 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, Cyclone Cup (British Columbia) and Keystone Cup (Western Canadian) champions and they rattled a lot of teeth and bruised a lot of bodies on their way to the titles.
Duner says he has heard teams, especially in the divisions they don’t play a lot, are loading up on size for when they play the Wranglers.
“Last year, we won it kinda like the Boston Bruins, and this year, we might have to win it like the Chicago Blackhawks.
“We have physical players – Bond, Friesen and Riley Coish are all physical – but we also have some scary skill up front and we’ll score lots of goals. I’m really excited about this season. All we have to do is find a couple a veteran D men and we’ll get ‘er going.”
The Wranglers first three games of the regular season will be on the road: Summerland Steam, Sept. 9; Princeton Posse, Sept. 10; and Sicamous Eagles on Sept. 16.
Then they host the Osoyoos Coyotes on Sept. 17 for the home season opener, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m.