As the regular season in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League starts to wind down, the 100 Mile House Wranglers, with seven games left, saw big games from goalie Quinn Ferris, defenceman Jayden Syrota, and a healthier-than-usual lineup last weekend, with a crucial weekend with playoff implications coming up.
The Wranglers went into Princeton and beat the Posse, 2-1, in its third game in three days on Jan. 25; lost, 4-2, to the Sicamous Eagles in 100 Mile on Jan. 24; and took it to the Neil Murdoch Division-leading Beaver Valley Nighthawks, 4-2, on home ice at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre on Jan. 23.
The local club, currently in fourth and battling it out in a very even and competitive Doug Birks Division, finally had 20 regular skaters in the lineup last weekend after going several weeks with short benches of battered guys and affiliate players.
Coach Dale Hladun says the weekend, especially the third game against Princeton, came down to character and a will to win.
“It was a pretty noble effort by the kids,” he says. “The guys were blocking shots and really cheering each other and pushing for that point. They want to win.”
The Wranglers head to Sicamous and face off with the Eagles (five points ahead of 100 Mile and second place in the division) on Jan. 30, and play the Revelstoke Grizzlies (eight points behind the Wranglers) in Salmon Arm during a Hockey Day event at 3 p.m. on Jan. 31. (Their game is followed by a British Columbia Hockey League match up between the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and the Vernon Vipers.)
With playoffs around the corner, and all five teams in the division still in the hunt, Hladun says he’s less concerned about where the team ends up seeding-wise, and more focused on the Wranglers finishing strong, and in good shape.
Because no matter what’s coming, there are no easy games left.
“Whether we finish fourth or second or whatever, it’s important we look sharp and stay healthy,” the coach says. “In the playoffs, no matter what, it will be a battle.”