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Friday, 12 September 2014


With the start of the KIJHL season on the horizon, what better way is there to start than with a matchup of two divisional opponents who REALLY don't care for one another. That's what we're all going to see on Friday night when the Summerland Steam open the 2014/15 KIJHL Season against the division rival Kelowna Chiefs. The puck drops inside the Summerland Arena at 7:30 and anyone registered with Summerland Minor Hockey Association gets free admission when wearing their minor hockey jersey and being accompanied by an adult!

The Steam and the Chiefs finished 1 & 2 respectively in the Okanagan Division last season and went head to head for the division title on the last weekend of the season in Rutland. The two teams played each other as hard as any two teams all season long, and it ended with the Steam pulling out a 3-1 win thanks to a game winner from Braden Saretsky in the final 10 minutes of play. 

Looking back to last season and the 8 meetings between these two teams, one look at the box scores will tell you all you need to know about what you can expect when the Steam and the Chiefs clash: 

1) PIM will tell you before the teams step on the ice that they REALLY don't like each other.

2) You're going to get a close, entertaining hockey game.

All but 2 of the 8 meetings during the 2013/14 campaign were decided by just a single goal, with the two anomalies being the final two meetings of the season. Those two games ended in favour of the guys from Summerland, by scores of 6-2 on February 14 and 3-1 in the division clincher on February 21. 

There will be plenty of carry over from the rivalry last season as the Chiefs have 8 players returning from last year's team to nearly match the Steam's 9 returnees. Both teams will boast a mixture of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance, and it will be up to each team's veteran players to pave the way if their team wants to be successful this season. 

Returning for the Chiefs are the likes of Brady Mende, Braeden Cyra, Chase Astorino, Nicholas Gnazdowsky, Anthony Ruggiero, Dylan Jamieson, Cole De Jonge, and Kevin Roth. They'll be flanked by highly touted rookie Jeran Knorr, a Kelowna Minor Hockey product, as well as KI veterans Ethan Rusnack, Josh Baird, and goaltender Chris Turner. 

Turner will partner up with Josh Shank to form the goaltending tandem for the Chiefs this season after spending last season with the Sicamous Eagles. In 21 appearances, Turner posted a 5-15 record while putting up a 3.28 GAA and a .916 SV% in an environment where he saw A LOT of shots. He will likely carry the bulk of the load for the Chiefs at least in the early going. He is expected to start the opener on Friday night in net for Kelowna, while Brett Huber is expected to go for the Steam.

As far as the Steam are concerned they have 9 players slated to return to don the red, black and white for another season. These 9 players were all part of the Okanagan Division Championship run last season and are highlighted by last season's co-leader in goals, Paulsen Lautard, the goaltender who had the best numbers in the division in Brett Huber, and locals Rylan Sideroff, Nelson Hurry, and Kendell Wilson.

General Manager Gregg Wilson and Director of Scouting Mike Rigby, along with the coaching staff, have put together an exciting group of young talent coming into 2014/15 that should keep fans on the edge of their seat and excited about the brand of hockey the Steam bring to the rink each and every night. The Steam will be shorthanded right from the get go tonight, as newcomers Riley Pettitt and Wyatt Gale will both sit due to suspensions carrying over from last season and exhibition season.

The puck drops on the new KIJHL season TONIGHT, Friday, September 12th at 7:30 at the Summerland Arena. Tickets are just $10 at the door, and kids wearing their minor hockey jerseys receive a free ticket when accompanied by a paying adult. As always you can follow along with us on Twitter at @SteamKIJHL and myself @Steam_Voice for all the latest news and roster updates as we inch closer to game time!