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Friday, 27 December 2013

STEAM LOOK TO CONTINUE ROLLING POST HOLIDAY BREAK

The Summerland Steam return to practice on Friday night before they travel to Osoyoos to take on the Coyotes in the first half of a home&home Saturday/Sunday showdown. They'll have to come off the break as hot as they went in, as it only gets tougher from here. Today we're going to have a look at the season to this point as we've reached the "halfway point" to this KIJHL season.

THE RECORD
The Steam got off to a slow start to this KIJHL season even though they won their first 2 contests. They proceeded to lose 5 straight before winning two more. Those two wins at the start of October would be their only 2 wins of the month, as they began a 7 game losing skid that saw them lose 2 key divisional games to the Osoyoos Coyotes and 1 to the Kelowna Chiefs. During this 7 game skid they also fell to 100 Mile House, Chase in OT, and the league-leading (at the time) Nelson Leafs. 

The tables started to turn for the Steam after a 3-2 home loss to the Sicamous Eagles. In that game their play was not indicative of the final score as they outplayed the Eagles by a wide margin but could not get the win they so sorely needed. After the loss to the Eagles, things quickly turned around for the Steam. Their play tightened considerably in their defensive zone and it showed in the standings as the Steam rattled off 7 wins in a row. Some of these wins were key divisional wins over the likes of the Osoyoos Coyotes, the Princeton Posse, and the Kelowna Chiefs.

Every team has a catalyst when it comes to a winning streak, and on the 7 game point streak that saw the Steam climb back up the Okanagan Division it was goaltender Brett Huber. He gave the team solid minutes each and every night that allowed them to push offense, knowing he would be there if they were to give the puck up. He and goaltending partner Darren Hogg have been critical in the success of the Steam since the start of November, with Huber maintaining most of the workload due to a lower body injury to Hogg that saw him sidelined nearly seven weeks. Since his return he's been solid, and he and Huber continue to give the team solid minutes and a chance to win each and every night. 

The Steam have turned things around severely since the calendar turned from October to November, and now into December their record over the past 18 games is an impressive 13-2-1-2, gaining points in 16 of 18 games. Their only two losses over that stretch of games have both come on home ice to the North Okanagan Knights on November 19th and December 3rd.

THE PERSONNEL 
The Steam will need to keep up the strong play, because even though they have points in 16 of 18 games, the division is keeping pace and only getting tougher to play against. The Steam are led in scoring by their top line of Kienan Scott (21G, 15A = 36 PTS), team captain Daylan Robertson (13G, 15A = 28PTS) and Paulsen Lautard (11G, 17A = 28PTS), but it truly is a team effort. The Steam possess 4 forward lines that can play strong defensively as well as put up offense at any time. Their D core is led by veteran Josh Dacosta (6G, 21A = 27PTS) and are very mobile and move the puck out of the defensive zone quickly. They've shown significant improvement over the course of the season under coach John Depourcq and hope to continue their strong play into the later part of the season. The Steam will need all six guys on D to be solid every single night in order to gain some more ground on the Osoyoos Coyotes and the Kelowna Chiefs above them in the standings in the Okanagan Division. 

When the Steam do break down defensively, they've got 2 of the best goaltenders in the KIJHL to back them up. Brett Huber went into the Christmas break holding down 5th overall among KIJHL goaltenders with 11 wins and a 2.60 GAA and a .920 SV% over 24 games played. Darren Hogg has looked sharp since returning from injury and carries a 5-5 record into the second half of this KIJHL season. 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

As mentioned, the Steam return to action Saturday night when they travel to Osoyoos to take on the Coyotes. They will return home for a Sunday afternoon Matinee at 2PM with those same Coyotes to finish off the weekend home and home. If you can't make it to either game, make sure to catch the call on KIJHL.ca with Tom Shields and the crew in Osoyoos on Saturday night, and myself and Dave on Sunday afternoon!