“It’s playoffs already,” says Wranglers coach Dale Hladun, looking ahead to 100 Mile House’s upcoming stretch. The local Kootenay International Junior Hockey League club is going head-to-head with the Kamloops Storm in four of their next five games.
“This weekend is for first place,” says Hladun, whose second place Wranglers currently trail their Doug Birks Division rivals by three points.
The Wranglers host the Storm on Nov. 27; travel to Kamloops on Nov. 28; host the Storm on Dec. 4; travel to Kelowna for a game against the Chiefs on Dec. 5; and meet the Storm again in Kamloops on Dec. 6.
“This is the big push. I think this is going to make or break who is going to finish first in our division. These are four-point games: the two points we get and the two points they don’t. We’ve got basically 16 points coming up here in the next two weekends.”
The Wranglers, which recently snapped a five-game losing streak, will be fired up for that, the coach adds.
“They want to beat Kamloops. We’ve got the roster to do it, so let’s do it.”
Hladun expects defenceman Tavis Roch and forward Alex Meeker back in the line up. Roch injured a shoulder in Revelstoke on Nov. 6. The Wranglers are 2-6 since.
“We’ve been rolling four or five defenceman,” says Hladun. “It works for a game or two, but for as many games as we’ve done it, they’re just tired. By having Roch, we will get that much more physical again. It’s amazing, you don’t realize how important a player or two are to your club until they’re not around. Roch, he’s kind of the straw that stirs the drink on the back end. He’s on the power play; he’s on the penalty kill; he’s a presence on the ice.”
100 Mile House snapped a five-game losing streak in Princeton with a 5-2 win on Nov. 21. They lost a close game, 4-3 in overtime, to the Okanagan Division-leading Coyotes in Osoyoos the night before.
“It was a unique goal,” Hladun says of the game-winner. “The puck was in the air and as it was coming to the ground the kid in front of the net [Ryan Morrell] took a wild swing at it and hit it a foot and a half [off the ice] and it just snuck past [Wranglers goalie Zane Steeves].”
Local boys Cole Zimmerman and Brett Harris played well on the weekend, Hladun adds.
“I look at our stretch where we didn’t get a regulation win, but we did play pretty good. The effort is there. We’ve gone through a slump and we’ve only dropped three points back of first place. We’re still in the hunt.”
In Princeton, Wranglers goalie Adam Derochie made 35 saves for the win. Justin Bond (2), Harris (2) and Alex Hanson scored for 100 Mile. Brandon Howard, Liam Cumberbirch, Todd Bredo (2), Kolten Carpenter (2), Michael Lynch, Kolby Page, Harris and Nick McCabe made assists. Harris, with three points, won star of the game.
Zane Steeves made 42 saves and won star of the game for the Wranglers in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Coyotes in Osoyoos on Nov. 20. 100 Mile was up 3-0 in the first period with goals by K. Page, Tate Page and Zimmerman. Ryan Friesen, Lynch and Bredo got assists.