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Monday, 24 February 2014

STEAM OPEN KIJHL PLAYOFFS vs KNIGHTS

WELL, here we are. The start of a brand new season. The Okanagan Division Champion Summerland Steam will open their brand new season on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the KIJHL playoffs versus the North Okanagan Knights.

During the regular season the Steam and the Knights played one another 8 times, with the Steam coming out on top in 5 of those games. Both teams have been good in the other's arena, with the Steam picking up 3 wins in 4 tries in Armstrong and the Knights were successful 2 of the 4 times they visited the Summerland Arena. The last meeting between the two teams, on February 16, was a 4-2 win in favour of the Steam, who put forth a gutsy effort at the end of a weekend that saw them play 3 games and attend a funeral in a 36 hour period.

They'll have to gear up for a long series with the Knights, who are a very solid hockey team and don't know the word 'quit'. They will continue to push the pace of play for the full 60 minutes whether they're up 9-3, down 9-3 or anywhere in between. All but one game in this season series has been decided by 2 goals or less and all have been strong, physical hockey games. Here's a break down of what needs to happen for either team to win this series:

SUMMERLAND STEAM (1ST SEED, OKANAGAN DIVISION)


The Steam come into the playoffs riding a hot streak of 7 wins in a row. For the Steam, it all starts with their goaltending. Coach John Depourcq is blessed to have two goaltenders who've both played well all season long and have both played exceptionally well against the North Okanagan Knights. The Steam have no problem putting the puck in the back of the net, but it all starts with solid goaltending and tidy defensive play. 

Kienan Scott will return to the lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs, and it looks as though Paulsen Lautard and Dylan Burton will both suit up for the Steam after taking cheap hits late in the final regular season game against the Osoyoos Coyotes.

In that game against the Coyotes it was the role players who got on the board for the Steam as Gordon Walters led the way with 2 goals while Cooper Holick, Kendell Wilson, and Olli Dickson all contributed a goal to the cause in an 8-4 victory. Easton Bodeaux also had a great game for the Steam, collecting three assists while being under the skin of the Coyotes all night long. In fact, the Steam got points from every guy in the lineup on Saturday night except for defensive specialist Calvin Hadley and forward Paulsen Lautard, who left the game before it's end with a cut that required multiple stitches.

All of these players who pitched in on Saturday night vs the Coyotes will need to do the same throughout the series with the Knights. It will be important for the Steam to use their tight defensive coverage and deep forward core to bury the Knights with every opportunity they earn, while getting good goaltending in the process.

Goaltending has been a pillar of strength for the Steam this season, as both Brett Huber and Darren Hogg have picked up key victories and played very well in the process. Both have played well against the Knights this season and no matter who is in the net tomorrow night for Game 1, they will give the Steam the confidence needed to drive play forward and keep the puck on the offensive side of center.

NORTH OKANAGAN KNIGHTS (4TH SEED, OKANAGAN DIVISION)


As good as the Steam's goaltending has been, the Knights' goaltenders have been equal. Both have played extremely well against the Steam and have even stolen games for their team in the season series. If the Knights want to come out on top in this series, the crease is where it starts. Between Mitch Profeit and Zach Dyment, they give the Knights a chance to win every single night and leave it up to the Knights' offence to get the job done. 

The Knights are led up front by Brett Hawrys, who took home the team scoring title with 18 goals and 47 points while playing all 52 games for his team. The Knights possess a core leadership group that boasts plenty of experience up front as captain TJ Christensen, assistant captain Tanner Burns and assistant captain Blake Culbert are all in their final season and will want to go out on a positive note. 

The Knights are the defending KIJHL Champions from last season, so they'll come out looking to defend that title one game at a time. They're a team that provides a lot of 'stiffness' in their game, which means every chance they get they'll put a body on an opposing player and make sure their presence is felt on every shift. They're particularly good when they control the puck below the goal line in the offensive zone, as their forwards are very good at using their bodies to shield the puck and making it difficult for the opposition to get it back. 



WHEN AND WHERE


Game 1 goes Tuesday night at the Summerland Arena. The puck drops at 7:30 and tickets are just $10. Make sure to get into the arena early and BRING THE NOISE to the Summerland Arena. This means whatever you've got, be it horns, air horns, cow bells, thunder sticks, or any other noisemaker you can find, bring it with you and lets pack the Summerland Arena and make it louder than it's ever been! 

As Always, you can follow along with the Steam on Facbook ( 'Summerland Junior B Hockey Club' ) or either team on twitter (@SteamKIJHL) (@NOKnights). 

If you're looking for more information than those can provide you with regards to the series or anything else (content on the blog, webcast, or Social Media; GOOD OR BAD), follow along and tweet me @Steam_Voice on Twitter or send me an email at timhogg@summerlandsteam.com!