There was no shortage of action at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre on Nov. 23.
The 100 Mile House Wranglers and Kamloops Storm traded goals and fisticuffs and the fans in attendance were as loud as they have been all season.
In the end, Kamloops won 5-4, scoring the go-ahead goal with 12:37 left in the third. However, 100 Mile House was right there with the division-leading Storm the whole way.
The home team scored all four goals with a man advantage. Kamloops racked up 80 minutes in penalties and the Wranglers went four for eight on the power play.
Coach/general manager Doug Rogers says it was back to the basics on special teams.
“We talked before the game about simplifying the power play. We ran into a bit of a rough stretch where we weren’t getting any power play goals. It’s amazing what can happen when you simplify things and don’t try to over think things.”
Most of those goals came from the point with a Wrangler screening in front of the net. Connor Sloan scored first for 100 Mile House, while defenceman Jayden Syrota scored two and D-man Tyson Levesque added one.
“[Kamloops] forwards were cheating pretty low,” Syrota explains. “We were getting the puck to the point. The main point [after that] is getting it through for rebounds and getting the puck in the net.”
Syrota, the only 16-year-old on the roster, called it a “high energy” game.
“It was exciting to be in. The outcome sucks.”
The Wranglers, however, have come a long way since the beginning of the season, and matchup well with the Kamloops Storm, which has won eight straight and is among the best in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
“Everyday we’re putting 100 per cent into it, and it’s paying off on the ice,” says Syrota.
Forward Mathieu Longhurst left it all on the ice against Kamloops. The Storm’s Ian Chrystal didn’t like a hit Longhurst laid on one of their captains in the first period, and caught up with him in the second, instigating a fight that had the hundreds at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre on their feet.
Longhurst was the smaller guy and took a few more shots than he gave, but he feels he held is own.
“I fought once [before], but I got killed,” Longhurst explains with a laugh. “I felt a little bit better [about this one].”
It had the effect hockey fights are supposed to have, he adds.
“Overall, I thought it got the guys fired up, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Indeed, not a minute later Wranglers defenceman Jordan Low and Kamloops player Felix Larouche were in the corner throwing punches at each other.
Longhurst says he thinks the animosity between the two teams has been building.
“It’s been a rivalry with Kamloops. They’re a great a team, but we’ve beat them in the past and we could have beat them last night, too.”
He credits good coaching and the guys in the Wranglers dressing room understanding their role on the team as keys to some of the success they’ve found so far in their expansion season.
“We have a lot of skilled guys and we have a lot of character guys. The character guys get us through the games, and the skilled guys get us points.”
The Wranglers record is 12-10-0-4 after 26 games – midway through their first season.
100 Mile House is currently second in the Doug Birks Division, well behind Kamloops, but within a couple points of the Chase Heat and the Sicamous Eagles, which beat the Wranglers 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 22.
Goalie Kristian Stead, who stopped 43 of 46 shots,“stole a point” for 100 Mile House that night, says Rogers.
Darcy Flaherty scored in the second period and Robert Orrey tied the game 2-2 with 10:13 left in the third. Sicamous won it at 2:45 in overtime.
“We didn’t have a good first two periods at all,” the coach adds.“Four-on-four, there’s lots of open ice, and anything can happen.”
Chase visits 100 Mile House tonight (Nov. 27). Puck drops at 7 p.m.