The 100 Mile Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League had a mixed bag on the last weekend of September, losing to the Fernie Ghostriders on Sept. 28 and winning against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Sept. 29.
“I thought we did alright. I’m not happy that we lost but with the growing pains of learning to play a five-man unit on the ice and learning how we’re going to forecheck and play breakouts and stuff. It’s coming,” said Dale Hladun, the head coach and general manager of the club. “Against Fernie, we dug a hole, just like we did against Kamloops and Beaver Valley, and yet we started taking control of the game but it was too little too late.”
Fernie won the game 5-2, despite 100 Mile House registering the most shots with 40 versus 29. The two goals game from C.J. Zimmerman and Garrett Hilton, both assisting on each other’s goals with the help of Aidan Morrison and Chase Schurack.
Hladun wasn’t happy with some of the penalties his players took, including a charging penalty and tripping call against Dylan Carr and Darian Long but the worst one was probably a slew-footing match penalty and five-minute major received by James Pedersen, earning him a three-game suspension.
However, there were some positives.
“Dan Allin played strong again, he’s been certainly showing he’s one of the top goalies in our league,” he said. “I was really happy with the play of Harley Bootsma. Not really knowing his teammates and coming in here and being the new guy, Harley has really bonded with his teammates. I really think he’s one of the bigger guys in the dressing room.”
The utility player is relatively new to the Wranglers, joining the team for their 4-1 loss against Beaver Valley on Sept. 22. He’s played both defence and forward for the team.
Because of Pedersen’s suspension, an injury to Jayce Schweizer and Tate Page’s school commitments, the Wranglers went into the game against Creston Valley with only three lines and five defensemen.
With only about 36 seconds into the period, the Wranglers faced a little more adversity after Chase Schurack was given a non-fighting game misconduct and a two-minute minor for checking from behind.
“The boys under adversity knew we had to stick to our systems. In all fairness, I thought the forecheck was maybe 50 to 60 per cent of what we need to do but 50 to 60 isn’t bad. Once we get it to 70 or 80 we will win a little more games,” said Hladun.
The Wranglers ended up winning the game 5-2, again having the most shots on net with 30 versus 24. Their power play units were also on point with three goals in five attempts Goals came from Hilton, Morrison, Ben Keon, Cody Barnes and Darian Long.
“I thought Aidan Morrison was very, very good on the backend. He made a lot of very good plays. Ben Keon was doing alright offensively,” said Hladun of his young defensemen.
“Hilton kind of took charge. He was key to our success and I’m really happy with the leadership of Kolby Page and Darian Long. We’re putting a lot of pressure on Kolby and Darian to put up points because we’re not really deep scoring wise. We’re deep talent-wise but you need a certain skill level to score and Darian and Kolby are certainly rising to the challenge.”
Long (8, three goals, five assists) and Page (7, four goals, three assists) are in the top three for the team’s points with Hilton being the leading point scorer (10, three goals and seven assists). Page is leading the team in goals.
Hladun said with the creativity and skill level of his defence core and the size of his forwards, the team is winning battles down low and is able to cycle the puck to the point, allowing for the defence to get pucks on the net and creating havoc in front of the opposing goalies.
The Wranglers will play the Chase Heat twice this week. The first game will be at home on Oct. 3 with the second being away at Chase on Oct. 5. The day after they are away against the Sicamous Eagles.