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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

WITH EXHIBITION IN THE REAR VIEW, STEAM OPEN DEFENSE OF OK DIVISION TITLE

As we approach the beginning of the 2014/15 KIJHL season, I can't help but look at the KIJHL as a league with a sense of pride. It is filled with quality players and quality people, and that shows by just how many players, coaches and personnel graduate into the BCHL, AJHL, and even into the college ranks for teams in divisions as high as NCAA Division II.

When I stepped into the broadcast booth for the Summerland Steam last season, I had no idea what I was in for. As a matter of fact, I walked into the arena for the home opener as a paying fan looking for an entertaining brand of hockey. Little did I know I'd step into the broadcast booth when the team needed some help and fall in love with the game of hockey and the people involved in a whole different way.

 Entertaining was the brand of hockey everybody got from the 2013/14 group that made up the Summerland Steam, and it resulted in a worst-to-first Okanagan Division Championship that was won against the rival Kelowna Chiefs on the final weekend of the 2013/14 regular season. It was the result of an improbable run that included the Steam collecting at least a point in 31 of their final 36 regular season games before bowing out to the North Okanagan Knights in a thrilling 7 game series that was one in the final 2 minutes of Game #7. 

Now at the start of my first full season as the Director of Media & Marketing for the Steam, I see a new group of individuals who are already beginning to come together as a team. With an immediate rematch on tap with the Kelowna Chiefs in the home opener, the 2014/15 group of 'Steammates' have large boots to fill to try and repeat as division champs.

In three preseason games against divisional opponents from Princeton and Osoyoos, the Steam went 1-1-1 while showing strong team dynamics and a mix of speed and strength in both ends of the ice. The exhibition season was highlighted by 4 goals in 3 games from Cole Woodliffe, solid defensive & physical play from rookie Cole Williams, and steady goaltending from both Brett Huber and newcomer Alex Kong, among other things. Ryley Pettitt and Jarrett Malchow both impressed during preseason play as well, adding a couple of goals a piece in 3 preseason contests. 

The team will be helped this season by returning 9 of those players from the 2013/14 Okanagan Division Championship team, including goaltender Brett Huber and local products Kendell Wilson, Rylan Sideroff, and Nelson Hurry. Also joining the team full time after being an Affiliate Player last season is Summerland native Cody Egilson.

The Steam will boast a bevy of local talent from Penticton, Summerland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, and Vernon this season as well as players like Riley Pettitt, Jarrett Malchow and Wyatt Gale from the Yukon Territory, Coleton Fisher from Calgary, AB, and Alex Kong from Burnaby, BC.

The 2014/15 Steam will be merchants of speed this season, boasting a combination of speed and skill that if used correctly will be difficult to manage for opponents all season long. They will open defense of their 2013/14 KIJHL Okanagan Division Championship this Friday night at the Summerland Arena vs the Kelowna Chiefs. The puck drops at 7:30 and the game is presented by Nesters Market!