The 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) had a tough time on the weekend of Jan. 26, losing both games and conceding a combined total of 16 goals.
Head coach and general manager Dale Hladun said there are some problems with the leadership on the team and after the Jekyll and Hyde performances against Revelstoke the previous weekend, he tried to sort it out during practices on Monday and Tuesday of last week.
“I spoke with the team about being men and doing the right thing and playing better for each other and stuff like that but apparently that fell on deaf ears because immediately that night three veteran players decided to stay out late and miss practice Wednesday morning,” said Hladun, who sat the three offending players during Friday’s game. “We needed those key players but there are consequences for dumb decisions.”
Both games were against Chase Heat, the team they are chasing in the standings for second place in the Birks Division.
Friday’s game ended in a 6-3 victory for the Heat. Saturday’s game went to overtime but also ended in the Heat’s favour, winning 10-9.
“You can score all the goals you want but what about the goals against? We scored nine goals and we can’t win a hockey game. We got to do better than that off the puck,” said Hladun, of the overtime loss on Saturday. “I mean, I had veterans on the ice late in the game, including my captains, and Chase scores and we don’t take it to heart.”
Chase is currently sitting with 50 points with the Wranglers behind by nine points.
Newcomer Jaysen MacLean was in-between the pipes for his Wranglers debut. Jakob Severson is still recovering from an injury and Hayden Lyons was suspended for three games after punching Dylan McNeill of the Revelstoke Grizzlies on Jan. 20.
MacLean hasn’t played any puck since he was released by the Creston Valley Thunder Cats earlier during the season and was a little shaky, giving up all 16 goals.
“He’s full of rust and that’s tough for him to come here not knowing any players or teammates. It’s tough for him to bring his A-game, he’s trying hard but our team is not very good defensively and that doesn’t help a goalie who’s nervous and new. I’m sure Jaysen has better games in him. It’s not his fault, it’s the team’s fault – just how we played d-zone coverage,” said Hladun.
Hladun has often spoken of the team’s offensive ability but is now speaking out about the team’s lack of discipline in playing defence.
Frustrated with the performance of the players and what he calls their personal agendas, Hladun will be having one-on-one and small group meetings with players to communicate and set team and personal goals that don’t conflict with what the team is trying to achieve.
“I think our kids need to understand this isn’t about them,” said Hladun. “When you join a team it’s not about you. When you join the Wranglers it’s about representing the community properly. This community built this franchise and our kids are recruited here to be apart of our community.”