The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League 2021-22 season begins Oct. 1. Leading into the season we are providing previews on each of the teams.
Next up are the 100 Mile House Wranglers of the Doug Birks Division. The Wranglers return to the KIJHL after opting out of the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19. Head Coach-GM Dale Hladun heads into his seventh season with the organization and was challenged to re-assemble a roster with one returning player.
Key Returnee: F- Chase Vancoughnett-Lafleur, 20.
The La Ronge, Sask., product had six goals and 18 points in 44 KIJHL games in 2019-20. Last season he played six games for the Carrot River Outback Thunder in the Prairie Junior Hockey League.
Hladun solidified his goaltending with High River, Alta. product Casey Thomson, 19, who played in the KIJHL with Columbia Valley in 2019-20, as well as Okotoks in the HJHL and Olds in the AJHL. Hladun said “pretty good goaltending to fall in our lap” as Thomson’s Okotoks GM reached out and encouraged him to look at the goalie.
“He’s certainly a pretty strong goalie,” says Hladun. “We lucked out from the goal line working out.”
Rookies to Watch: D- Tyler Lalikeas, F- Ethan Sanders, Colton Thon, Reid Stumpf.
Lalikeas, 18 – North Central Zone -“He’s a pretty solid player with good skating skills and he handles the puck well. He’s got size to him and doesn’t mind bumping people off the puck.”
Sanders, 18- 100 Mile House – Thompson Blazers U18AAA – Had seven points in 18 games two seasons ago. “He’s a wonderful player and kid. It’s nice to be able to build with a piece from home.”
Thon, 18- Quesnel – Cariboo Cougars product played three games with the Kamloops Storm in 2019-20, where his older brother Chris played. “Colton has a lot of energy. He’s got some good puck skills and he’ll be one of the guys we have to lean on for some offence. He also has leadership ability.”
Stumpf, 18- Houston, B.C. – North Central Zone – “What a warrior. He’s a stocky, strong kid, who is a good skater and a missile on the forecheck. He’s attacking and he’s a pretty good guy in the dressing room.”
Season outlook: “Overall, we are going to have to work with these guys to be a good 5-on-5 team. We’re going to have to score by committee. A lot of the pucks are going to have to be touched by a shin pad or a bum before it goes in the net (joked Hladun).“
Hladun says he has talent to work with, but there is work to do with them but early on he senses the hunger to learn. He knows he needs to be patient and added he expects to get a couple more players in a month.
Coach’s quote: “It will take time and I sense the way our team is coming along, to use a golf term, our front nine, we’re going to need a mulligan here and there. We will probably have to find where we are going to drop the ball. I think our back nine of the season will be pleasantly surprised, if not surprising a few clubs.”