The 100 Mile Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) started their October schedule off with a bang, getting two wins over the Chase Heat and a draw against the Sicamous Eagles.
“I thought the boys played well,” said Dale Hladun, the Wrangler’s head coach and general manager. “To be 5-3-1 in our first nine games with a roster that is still young and learning is not a bad start.”
On Oct. 3 Dan Allin got his second shutout of the season, helping the Wranglers to a 3-0 win over Chase.
Veterans Kolby Page and Darian Long continue to impress, with the former getting a brace and Long getting an assist.
On Oct. 5, the Wranglers went to Chase and thumped the Heat 5-1, despite being undershot and giving away 10 power play opportunities to the home team, who failed to convert.
Two of the penalties were for too many men on the ice. Despite the lapse in team concentration, Hladun will be happy that his penalty killers managed to shut down the Heat, a team that has struggled to score goals so far this season.
“We haven’t worked on it a ton, but then the guys who have been doing it have been with us, so they understand,” said Hladun of his penalty kill units. “There is a lot of experience on how we want to do the penalty kill like there is pressure on the play. But you’ll notice, we call it a swarm. When the pucks along the wall and they [opponenets] have their back to us, we have all our men on top of their men and just keep the puck in the pile until it pops out and we can move it.”
Kasey Jackson, a forward and rookie with Chase, is leading the team in goals with four and is in a five-way tie for total points of four.
Not only have they struggled to score goals, but they have also struggled to win. In nine contests, the Chase Heat are in dead last of the division and hold a record of 0-8-1-0-0.
In contrast, on the Wranglers; Garrett Hilton is leading the team in points (12), Page and Long are in a tie with nine. Page is also leading the Wranglers in goals with six.
As an aside, Brody Dale of the Kelowna Chiefs is leading the league with 33 points with only 11 games under his belt.
Goal scorers were Garrett Hilton (2), Chase Schurack, Cody Barnes and C.J. Zimmerman. Jakob Gullmes was in net for the Wranglers, securing his second win of the season.
The next day, the team travelled to Sicamous, to take on the Eagles who sit third in the division with a 3-5-2-0-1 record.
It ended in a 2-2 draw, again with the Wranglers outshooting their opponent by a sizeable margin (41 to 22). Hladun’s special team units also spent a lot of time on the ice, killing seven penalties but also with the man advantage seven times. Nothing much happened for either team, as all 14 penalties were successfully killed.
“I consider that a loss. They tied us late and even though it was a tie, I felt it was a loss,” said Hladun. “You got to pressure the puck carrier and I got two forwards staring at each other going ‘is that your guy?’ and that’s a shot at the net and bang, there’s a rebound and now it’s tied up.”
The game had it’s drama though, with four game misconducts being doled out. Two of them for head contact and a further two for fighting. The two fighters were Jayce Schweizer of the Wranglers and Josh Olson from the Eagles, who now have to serve a one-game suspension each.
Liam Dodd (Wranglers) and Nicolas Cossa (Eagles) were the two other offenders, both receiving their misconduct for head contact.
The Wranglers are travelling again this weekend, making their first stop on Oct. 12 against the Columbia Valley Rockies of the Eddie Mountain Division of the Kootenay Conference.
In their nine games, the Rockies are 7-2-0-0-0 and sit in second in their division, just underneath current KIJHL champions, Kimberley Dynamiters.
On paper, it will be an even match up. Both have a decent number of rookies (11 for the Rockies, 12 for Wranglers), and similar power play success ratings with the Wranglers having the edge with 22.22 per cent over the Rockies 21.82 per cent (10 goals in 45 opportunities versus 12 goals in 55 opportunities). Another area the Wranglers have an edge is the penalty kill. They have a 94.64 per cent success rate, including scoring three shorthand goals and only allowing the same against in the 56 times they have been shorthanded. The only team who has a better rate are the Revelstoke Grizzlies, who have been shorthanded 16 times less.
In the penalty kill, the Rockies are in the middle of the pack with 82.61 per cent and allowing eight goals in the 46 times they have been shorthanded.