100 Mile House Wranglers head coach and general manger Dale Hladun went into this season with his eyes open.
He knew this year’s players were going to have big “red, white and blue” targets on the back of their jerseys.
“We’re the defending champs, so it’s to be expected.”
The Summerland Steam knocked off the Wranglers 7-2 in Summerland Arena on Sept. 9, and Hladun says they were trying to send a message to the defending champions.
Noting the Steam is an older squad with 15 veterans in the lineup, Hladun points out the Wranglers currently have four veterans in our lineup.
“[Summerland] is a good club and I think they can win their division.”
He adds the Wranglers didn’t even have a practice before they headed out on the road to play the Steam and the Princeton Posse the following night, which the Wranglers won 6-4.
“Although the points mean something, that first weekend was still like exhibition. We’re still trying to build our team.
“That first game was an eye-opener for a couple of the new kids.”
Hladun says his players stepped it up pretty good against Princeton.
“Princeton certainly isn’t the same calibre as Summerland, but they have some veterans and I thought our boys moved the puck alright.
“I thought we started playing better as a team and I was happy with the effort of Brendan Henderson who played in the net for us.”
Hladun adds he picked up another defencemen – Kevin Filier who is a fast, hard-working player from Smithers, “which is kind of what we need.”
The coach also carded a young prospect from Prince George – defenceman Brevin Gervais.
“With a little work and a little time, I think he’s going to be a real good prospect and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Western Hockey League looks to list him.
“We’ll have a core of young D-men – three born in ’99 and one in 2000, so they’re four school-aged kids. We have seven school-aged kids on our club right now. We’re certainly much younger than last year.”
The coach says some of the veteran kids are starting to come back to the team.
“We’ll have a couple of surprises in the lineup this weekend.”
He adds Tyler Povelofskie, who is working full time, will be coming back to play a few games when he can.
“He was pretty important for us last season, so I think our fans will be happy to see him in the home opener.”
This week has seen the Wranglers going through a lot practices.
“We started to get the guys into shape and worked a bit on structure. That was one of our downfalls last weekend; we just played a lot of scrambly hockey.
“We need a little more structure – whether it’s our power play or our penalty kill or forechecking. We’re doing a lot of team focus this week.”