The 100 Mile House Wranglers put on a show this weekend, defeating the Dawson Creek Kodiaks in back-to-back home games, beating them 5-4 Saturday and 4-3 Sunday.
Even though they were just exhibition games, head coach Dale Hladun said the new team played until they were exhausted both nights. Hladun said it was nice to start the year off with wins on home ice, a change of pace from last season.
“The fans were happy because it’s been a while since they’ve seen a victory on this rink with how we played last year,” Hladun said. “I think the Wrangler Nation is going to be quite happy with what we’ve got going this year.”
On Saturday the Wranglers and Kodiaks started off largely even in a game marked by physicality and aggression from both teams, with both receiving a penalty before the game even began. The Kodiaks scored first but the Wranglers answered with a goal of their own on a powerplay. The Wranglers were unable to stop the Kodiaks from bringing the score to 2-1 by the period’s end.
During the second period, the Kodiaks largely dominated, scoring two goals to widen their lead comfortably. However, the Wranglers proved stubborn and Kayden Stark was able to keep the Wranglers in the fight with a late-period goal.
Hladun said his players rallied in the third period with Keagan Landry and Ethan Davey evening the score at four. After several penalties and near-fights, Wranglers defenceman Tyler Smoluk managed to score the game-winning goal on a double power play.
Sunday night saw the Kodiaks take the Wranglers into overtime. The game was won by Memfis Burgeson passing the puck to Jack Mulder who scored a breakaway goal with seconds left on the clock.
Hladun said the victories were all the more impressive considering that the Kodiaks, who operate under different rules than the Wranglers, are largely made up of players around the age of 20. By contrast, only three of the Wranglers are above the age of 18 with most still attending high school.
“They’re carrying shaving kits and we’re carrying lunch kits for school so it was good for our guys to match up physically to them.”
The Wranglers’ home victories followed a loss on the road to the Chase Heat Friday. Sept. 9, who beat them 4-1. Even in that game, however, Hladun said he saw promise with his team outshooting the Heat two to one.
So far Hladun said he’s seen a lot of “run and gun” skill from this year’s team which he finds encouraging. Over the next few weeks, he said he’ll be instilling systems within the team to make his players more effective.
Building team spirit, however, is something Hladun said his players are already doing.
“Our dressing room, I’ve never seen a team bond so quick. They are loving each other and I’m hearing good reports from the school already,” Hladun said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
The Wranglers are hosting a second weekend of back-to-back exhibition home games Saturday and Sunday against the North Okanagan Knights.