The 100 Mile House Wranglers took down the Sicamous Eagles and Princeton Posse on Feb. 2 and 3, scoring 18 goals in the process.
“I still feel in order to get deep success, we’re going to have to be better in our own end and I think we’re moving in that direction but it’s a focal point for the next game right to the playoffs,” said Dale Hladun, head coach and general manager, who’s happy with the team’s offensive punch but still looking more from his players when it comes to defence.
Since returning from Christmas break, the Wranglers have gone 4-4-1, including two games where teams have scored nine or more goals against them. The Wranglers, whose primary strength is their offensive play failed to score more than five goals during a game until Jan. 27, where they scored nine goals in what would end up to be 10-9 overtime loss against rivals, Chase Heat.
James Gordon scored four of 10 goals against Sicamous and Jakob Severson returned from injury to capture the win, allowing three goals. Six other Wranglers recorded a multiple-point game over the Wranglers offensively strong weekend. In total, 15 players had at least one point on the score sheet.
“The puck follows him around mysteriously. I can’t get how he [Gordon] can go into a phone booth with four opposition players and he’s the guy who comes out with the puck,” said Hladun.
Hladun also singled out Patsey and the two goalies as stand out performances, as well as depth-forward Jackson Miller. Miller had a three-goal weekend in a breakout performance. In 36 games, the Calgary-born Miller has seven goals and three assists in his first season with the team.
Hayden Lyons returned to the pipes after a three-game suspension against Princeton, facing 24 shots and saving 20 of them. Frazer Dodd also continued with his offensive output, assisting Travis Gook, Joel Patsey and Kolby Page in finding the net in an 8-4 victory.
Including the 10-9 loss against Chase, the Wranglers have found nothing but net over the past three games. The team has scored 27 goals and allowing 17. Seven of those goals were in the games against Sicamous and Princeton.
“I feel we try to score our way out of trouble instead of worrying about our end as much as we should,” said Hladun, even though he was excited the team had a lot of scoring depth. “In all fairness, Princeton and Sicamous are struggling, so yeah we blew them out of the water but they’re certainly not Revelstoke or Chase or Summerland. Good for the boys to do what they did but I got to read situations or things in the game that we have to work on and defensive coverage is one of them.”
The complacency when it comes to defensive coverage is something that worries Hladun, especially with only six games left in the regular season. Even though they had a good weekend, Hladun wants the strong play to happen constantly. He’s hoping that by playoff time strong defensive coverage and bailing each other out is cemented in the team’s DNA.
“I need this to be indelible. It has to be in our DNA, in our character that we’re going to continue to do the right things and we’re going to continue to support each other. If somebody makes a mistake, we shouldn’t single them out, we got to bail them out. That’s our goal,” said Hladun.
The Wranglers are now looking to capture second place in the Birks Division. Chase Heat is sitting at second with only a five-point lead and the Wranglers have two more games to play than the Heat. Hladun’s team faces a certain advantage with four of the six next games being contested at home. One of the away games might also go in their favour as it is hosted in neutral Quesnel against Kamloops. With the 100 Mile House team being the closer of the two, it would be no surprise that the arena would be dominated by fans wearing blue and yellow.
However, three of those games are in just as many days, which concerns the team’s coach.
“We got a really tough weekend, but I think that will be a great measuring stick for us before playoffs,” said Hladun.