Game 3 of the 2016 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) Championship in 100 Mile House on March 29 was a rock ’em sock ’em affair.
The Wranglers were doing 90 per cent of the rocking as they powered their way to a 5-2 victory over the Kimberley Dynamiters in front of an appreciative and noisy crowd.
During a pre-game interview, Wranglers coach and general manager Dale Hladun talked about a few keys to the remaining games that were both sage and correct.
“Just rolling four lines is going to help us in the long run. [Kimberley] tends to shorten their bench pretty early and they’re a little banged up, so I think if we can make the series a long one, it will really go in our favour.
“I thought we were more physical with Revelstoke and Chase, but according to Kimberley and the media down there, they think it’s a real physical series. I don’t know whether they haven’t been hit before or what’s going on.
“If they think we were rough-and-tumble down there, wait until they get in our rink.
“Kimberley has some good players, but as a team, I don’t think they’ve played against a team like us in a series all through last year and into this year.
“I do think they’re aware of the fact they’re going to have a tough battle to win the title.”
Game 3 was very tense off the get-go as the Dynamiters pushed hard for the early first goal, but Wranglers goalie Zane Steeves held the fort until his teammates took away the momentum by laying the body on the Kimberley players, including several thunderous hits that slowed the attack down.
Steeves played all 60 minutes of the game and saved 37 of 39 shots.
In a post-game interview, Hladun said his boys played a physical game and rolled four lines as planned and that is how the Wranglers wear teams down.
“All year we have preached ‘who will want to play us in seven games’. That’s kind of been our thing; if we can, we want the series to go long. If it does, that’s in our favour because we’re relatively healthy and we’re a physical club.”
Noting Kimberley is a good team and defending KIJHL champion with a lot of talent and pride.
“If you give them a few chances, that puck is in the net.”
Overall, the coach said he thought the Wranglers played really well, and “they played hard for each other tonight.”
Hladun noted the Dynamiters were shying away from the hitting as the game wore on.
“In the third period, we were putting puck in and we were beating them to those pucks and they were kind of backing off. So it’s two more nights like that boys and welcome to 100 Mile.”
There was no scoring in the first period, but Brett Harris (Ryan Friesen, Cole Zimmerman) opened the scoring in a goal-mouth scramble at 17:12 of the second period.
Kimberley tied the game with a Jared Marchi (Tanner Wit, Jason Richter) goal on a five-on-three power play and the score was knotted at ones at the end of 40 minutes.
The Wranglers took control in the third period with Brady Ward (Zimmerman, Stephan Egan) getting a goal for the 2-1 lead at 18:28.
Justin Bond (Alex Hanson, Austin Turner) scored the game-winning goal at at 9:24.
“Bondo got a really nice goal,” Hladun said. “He kind of dangled a couple of guys in the slot and picked the mid-spot on the glove side of the goalie. It was a great shot.”
After Kimberley’s Graham Dugdale got a five-minute major for head contact, Ryan Friesen (Zimmerman, Harris) and Alex Meeker (Jaydon Gilding, Bond) scored two power-play markers.
The Dynamiters sandwiched a goal by Jordan Busch (James Farmer, Trey Doell) between the Wranglers power-play tallies.
Hladun said he thought the key to the victory was the Wranglers penalty kill, as they were shorthanded on eight occasions compared to three for Kimberley.
“I thought Egan, [Tyler] Povelofskie, [Kolten] Page and Harris did a great job of penalty killing….”
The fans were yelling at the referees suggesting Kimberley players were diving after some of the hits and they were getting calls in their favour. However, that ended when one of the Dynamiters got two minutes for diving.
Game 5 goes tonight at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre, starting at 7 p.m.
If necessary, games 6 and 7 will be played in Kimberley on April 2 and 3.