|Built in 1951, Memorial Arena witnessed the Salsa win the Fred Page Cup in 2001, you can still smell the onions cooking|
|SOFMC complete with modern art which truly captures the "spirit" of Blanchard Street|
|Mowry Baden’s abstract sculpture Pavilion, Rock and Shell, unveiled outside Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre in 2003|
|The new and beautiful exterior look of the Archie Browning, host of the 2016 Cyclone Taylor Cup|
|The cozy confines of The Arch. The North Stand at left was home this weekend to +250 Wrangler fans|
I have to say that when I walked into the Archie on Thursday afternoon in anticipation of the first of four straight days of CTC play, the first thing that I saw was this entity known as "The Wrangler Nation". I almost stopped in my tracks. There I saw almost 250+ visiting Wrangler fans, all jammed into the seats in the North End of "The Arch". It was a sight to behold and a reminder to everyone what small town hockey is all about and why tournaments like the CTC are more than just special, they are in fact a celebration of the game we all love. All weekend the Wrangler Nation would rock the North End Stands of The Archie. The town's rather large travelling throngs would in fact represent 40% of all pre-tourney ticket sales for the entire tournament, an amazing feat.
|Sunday morning's 10:00 am Bronze Medal game between CR Storm and Mission City Outlaws|
Nope, for me this was way, way better. Here you had two teams from two different leagues fighting it out in front of a nearly packed barn in Esquimalt on a Sunday afternoon. And the Wrangler Nation simply stole the show. Everywhere you looked, all you could see along that North End was a sea of navy blue, yellow, silver and white along with flags, signs, placards and one hell of a lot of noise. It was pandemonium, sheer bedlam at times.
Forward Nick McCabe got things going early with the first goal of the game for the Wranglers and the game would continue to go the way of the underdogs in spite of some Cougars push back in Period #3. Only seconds into the final frame, the Wranglers would strike again. This time it was on the PP, with former Victoria Grizzlies player and 2 time February call up, Nathan Looysen in the penalty box from a late 2nd period penalty. 3-1 was the score at that point of the game and with the superb play of goaltender Zane Steeves (eventual tournament MVP) holding back the Cougars, you began to think that the Wranglers were perhaps on their way to a big upset. But after 3 straight unanswered Cougars goals from Dom Kolbiens, Jordan Passmore (with an assist from Grizzlies AP Nico Sommerville) and John Kretzschmar, the favoured Cougars were back in front with only about 7:26 left on the clock.
Meanwhile back on the Wranglers bench the jovial and upbeat but equally pragmatic Head Coach, Dale Hladun simply looked at his team and smiled. He looked at his beleaguered charges as they had suddenly surrendered the lead to the powerhouse Cougars and said: "Fellas, why do you look so sad, cheer up, what else is new? We've been making it hard on ourselves all year, why stop now? This is how we do it. This is how we always win, the hard way. This is Wranglers hockey. Now come on, let's go!"
And remember too that the Cougars were without the services of two of the most important pieces to their 2016 VIJHL title. Gone was #1 net-minder and Peoria, Arizona native, Anthony Cuirro. He had had unfortunately broken his collar bone during a routine shot from a teammate no less, during warmup on Friday night. Also gone was top Cougar defenseman, Austin Wilk, who was suspended for a hit to the head penalty from the Saturday night game. Those two moments on consecutive nights for the Cougars would come to help spell disaster on Sunday afternoon. The Cougars, who had breezed through the Round Robin without even a single loss were simply always chasing the Championship game or so it seemed.
And then suddenly it happened. With just under 6 minutes remaining in the 3rd period and with the Cougars holding a lead in the title game for less than 2 minutes, the Cougars would surrender the puck just to the right of their new #1 goalie, Gregory Maggio. And you could not have coughed up the puck to any Wrangler more dangerous than #19 Brett Harris who quickly roofed the puck over Maggio and the game was tied again at 4-4. The Wrangler Nation exploded and the McDonald's customers on the other side of the adjoining wall of the north end "The Arch" complained to the 15 year old management team that the noise and vibration coming through the walls of the building was so severe it was upsetting their enjoyment of their Happy Meals. Overtime loomed large.
|Happy Meal sales dropped to near zero during the CTC anytime the Wrangler Nation were shaking the walls of The Arch|
|The 2016 CTC Champs, 100 Mile House Wranglers. "Wrangler Nation" in background|
|The moment every team dreams of: Provincial Champions!|