The 100 Mile House Wranglers bested the Sicamous Eagles but failed to defeat the North Okanagan Knights last weekend.
The Wranglers faced the Eagles Friday at the South Cariboo Rec Centre winning 4-3. On Saturday, however, the Knights carried the game, beating the Wranglers 4-1, thanks to their goalie Josh Hager who saved 60 of 61 shots on the Knights’ net.
“It was kind of funny. Our 51st shot on net went in for our first goal and I said ‘Ok fellas, we need another 50 shots to get the second goal,” head coach Dale Hladun said. “Sometimes you just run into a hot goalie.”
This past weekend has been typical of the Wranglers’ performance this year.
Over the past three weeks, the Wranglers have lost seven games and won two. Despite the lack of victories, Hladun said his team is continuing to put in the hard work to get better.
One of the Wranglers’ most consistent players this season has been Jack Mulder.
Hladun said Mulder never misses a practices and works hard every night. Against the Sicamous Eagles, he was a “game breaker,” stealing the puck twice and setting up Nathan Bohmer to score two decisive goals.
“The unsung heroes are guys like Presley Gordon. He kills penalties, he blocks shots and forechecks hard. It’s subtle things, like covering his man in our end. That can go unnoticed but not by me. He has been a very dependable player.”
Hladun said the Wranglers have had several close games but have been unable to translate their effort into wins.
While winning is important he said that building a solid culture and systems is more important for the long-term future of the team.
“As much as the fans see Wrangler jerseys on the ice, they are babies. We are the youngest and most inexperienced team. Even our returning vets are still learning and I think we have come leaps and bounds from the beginning of the year,” Hladun said.
“There’s so much confidence in the room and I keep preaching to the kids we will be the feel-good story of the year.”
This weekend on home ice Hladun said they have a chance to secure a place in the playoffs.
They’re only one point away from fourth place and if they’re able to beat the Chase Heat on Friday and Kelowna Chiefs on Saturday they’ll be able to start building some serious momentum and ideally a winning streak.
In the coming weeks, Hladun plans to reinforce the importance of a strong defense and playing strategically to his players. Stopping goals is just as important as scoring them he said.
“Now that we have established the core values we’re going to have to focus on forechecking and our defensive zone coverage,” Hladun said.
“The next phase of that is how to hold a lead. The kids are always eager to score but to try and score means risks. They’ll have to learn to cycle the puck and that sometimes the best way to win a game is to not beat your opponent on the ice but to beat the clock.”