In an extremely tough division, it is imperative to be able to gather points early in the season while teams are still sorting out kinks and finalizing rosters. The Summerland Steam took advantage of that on opening weekend as they brought the offense to the table, cruising past the Kelowna Chiefs in their home opener on Friday night in Summerland by a score of 6-2. The Steam followed up by heading to Kamloops and ruining the Opening Night festivities of the 2013/14 KIJHL Regular Season Champion Kamloops Storm, defeating the defending champs by a score of 5-0. Brett Huber was solid on both nights on opening weekend, picking up both wins including a 43 save shutout vs Kamloops on Saturday.
Elsewhere around the Okanagan Division, all three other teams besides the Steam and the Coyotes (Kelowna, Princeton, North Okanagan) split their games on the weekend, each recording a 1-1 record.
The Steam's young guns impressed on the weekend, with Cole Woodliffe, Cody Egilson, Jack Mills and Riley Pettitt all recording their first KIJHL points. They were supplemented by veterans like Braden Saretsky and Paulsen Lautard, who accounted for 5 goals and 8 points in the first 2 games of this young KIJHL Season, and Brett Huber who stood tall in goal for the red, black and white.
The Steam were not the only ones to have an offensive outburst on opening weekend, however, as the Osoyoos Coyotes flexed their offensive muscles in their 2 games beating North Okanagan and Chase by scores of 11-0 and 7-2 respectively. The Steam and Coyotes won't meet each other until they play an afternoon game on Thanksgiving Day, October 13th at 1PM. Until then they will watch each other closely, as they will assuredly be within a few points of one another in the Okanagan Division standings.
Before any more divisional games, however, the Steam have to look forward to a road trip to 100 Mile House next weekend to play the Wranglers. The Wranglers went 2-1 on opening weekend, defeating the Grand Forks Border Bruins by a score of 4-2 on Friday night before beating the Keystone Cup Champion Beaver Valley Nitehawks 4-3 on Saturday. With a 2-0 record the Wranglers moved across the 49th parallel on Sunday to play the Spokane Braves and found defeat for the first time, as the Braves took a 4-1 decision in their home opener.
The Steam will be visiting the South Cariboo Rec Centre for the 2nd time in the history of the franchise, recording a 3-2 OT loss last season. They will also be the opponent in the Wranglers 2014/15 Home Opener and the home debut of new Head Coach & GM Dale Hladun. Hladun has spent time in Princeton and Fernie in his KIJHL career, and in my experience watching his teams they will surely be fast, physical, and make life very difficult in all 4 corners for the Summerland Steam on Friday night.
With a mix of returning players as well as new additions and rookies, the Wranglers will ice a strong lineup this season and look for an improvement on their 3rd Place Finish in 2013/14. Goaltending is key for any team in the KIJHL, and the Wranglers have 2 returning goaltenders in Kristian Stead and Magnus Viberg who will occupy the space between the red pipes this season.
That game takes place Friday night at the South Cariboo Rec Center, with the Steam returning home Sunday, September 21 to face the Fernie Ghostriders for a 2PM puck drop!