On Tuesday night the Summerland Steam will travel up Highway 97 to Rutland where they'll find the Kelowna Chiefs waiting for them. The Steam are coming in off a huge victory over the Osoyoos Coyotes on Saturday night by a score of 6-5. Paulsen Lautard was the catalyst that kept the engine running on Saturday night, recording a hat trick and being a force on the forecheck all night long against the Coyotes. He'll need to do that again against a very solid Chiefs team that leads the division by 7 points over Summerland.
The Steam and the Chiefs have tangled with one another 4 times so far this season, with Kelowna coming out victorious in 3 of those meetings. All four have been decided by 1 goal, and that is likely not going to change as both teams jockey for position heading towards the playoffs. Brett Huber has been the goaltender of record for Summerland in all 4 contests against the Chiefs this season, while former member of the Steam Connor De Melo has been in the Chiefs' net for 3 of 4 games against his former team.
Here's what you need to know to get you set for Tuesday night's tilt:
The Steam brought a total team effort with them to Osoyoos and were rewarded with a big win, thanks to solid goaltending from Brett Huber and an outburst of offense from their forwards. Paulsen Lautard led the offensive charge with his linemates Kienan Scott and Daylan Robertson while all four lines had chances to score all throughout the game. Cooper Holick served a 1 game suspension on Saturday night but will be available for coach John Depourcq on Tuesday night.
Newcomer Calvin Hadley was impressive in his debut for the Steam in Osoyoos on Saturday. He is able to find the phyiscal edge as well as make a good first pass out of the defensive zone. He will surely work well in the Steam's D core providing some stability along with Josh Dacosta, Michael Winnitoy, Nelson Hurry, Alex Williams and Easton Bodeux. Williams missed the game vs Osoyoos with a lower body injury, but figures to return to the lineup on Tuesday evening in Kelowna. Shane Bennett also looked good in his return from a lower body injury that saw him miss 31 games.
Darren Hogg will start in net for the Steam in Kelowna and will look to continue his strong run of play since returning from injury on December 6th. Both Hogg and goaltending partner Brett Huber have provided a strong backbone for the Steam as they've really turned play around since the start of November. They give the Steam a chance to win every single night, which is all you can ask for from a pair of goaltenders night in and night out.
THE KELOWNA CHIEFS
Despite losing their leading scorer, Nick Josephs, to the BCHL's Salmon Arm Silverbacks in early January, the Chiefs have continued to roll forward . They've won three of their five games since his departure and have not missed an offensive beat, averaging near 3 goals per game in those five games. Josephs had carried most of the offensive load for the Chiefs until his departure, but the likes of Jagger Bowles, Jordan Salahor, and Nick Kovacik have continued to produce points and help the Chiefs get wins along with Brady Mende. Mende, a native of Winfield, BC, has maintained a point per game pace throughout this season while being one of the Chiefs best centermen and most depended upon penalty killers. At just 18 years old, Mende has proven to be an extremely valuable member of the Chiefs' team and has serious potential to be a force for years to come.
The Chiefs are led from the defensive side of the puck by Nick Headrick and Kevin Roth, who are both smooth skating defensemen that have the ability to help in the offensive zone whenever they're given the opportunity. Not many defensemen in the KIJHL carry nearly a point per game pace, but Nick Headrick is one of those players. The Steam will have to be extremely cognizant of where he is on the ice at all times as he acts as much like a 4th forward as he does a valuable defenseman, and that isn't a knock on his defensive play.
In goal the Chiefs boast a strong goaltending tandem in former Steam goaltender Connor De Melo and veteran tender Tyler O'Donnell. Both give their team a chance to win every single night and provide a stiff test for opponents when it comes to putting pucks in the net.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The puck drops in Kelowna at the Rutland Arena on Tuesday evening at 7PM. It is sure to be a spirited tilt between the top two teams in the Okanagan Division as the Steam try to close the gap and the Chiefs try to extend their lead past 7 points. This is the first of 4 meetings in a calendar month as these teams will meet on January 25 in Rutland followed by a Valentine's Day date in Summerland on February 14th before closing out their season series in Rutland on February 21.
If you can't make it out to the arena to check out some great local Junior hockey action, be sure to follow along at KIJHL.ca on the webcast live from the Rutland Arena!
As always you can check us out on Facebook at 'Summerland Junior B Hockey Club' and follow along with myself (@Steam_Voice) and the two teams (@KelownaChiefs) & (@SteamKIJHL) for all the updates you need to keep up with some of the best junior hockey in the province!