Just shy of 2 months into the 2014/15 KIJHL season, the Summerland Steam will get a first look at the division rival Princeton Posse on Friday night. The Posse are the only divisional opponent the Steam have yet to face early in this season, even though the two teams did play one preseason game to get acquainted. In that exhibition game it was the Steam coming out on top with a 4-3 win, and they'll look for the same result in their first meeting of the regular season on Friday night.
Summerland comes in having lost on Wednesday night in Osoyoos by a score of 5-4 in a tightly contested and very fast paced hockey game. The Steam did a good job containing the Coyotes on Wednesday night, although it took a few minutes of brilliance from goaltender Brett Huber to allow the Steam to get their legs underneath them and have the score remain 0-0.
On Friday night they'll look for a bit of a faster start on home ice as they face off against a Princeton Posse team who boasts a better record than the Steam and a veteran KIJHL presence to their lineup. From last season the Posse have 11 returning members of their 2013/14 team as well as two players who played in the KIJHL last year in Connor Sloan (100 Mile House) and Bradly Palumbo (Columbia Valley). The biggest changes for the Posse come in the goal crease with 2 new goaltenders in Stephen Heslop and Bailey Stephens. Stephens is a graduate of the Okanagan Hockey Academy while Heslop has seen stops in the BCHL with Victoria and Cowichan before settling in with the Peninsula Panthers in the VIJHL in 2013/14.
So far this season the Posse have compiled a 9-4-1-2 record and are 7-2-0-1 in their last 10, propelling the team from the Similkameen to 2nd place in the Okanagan Division. By the numbers, the Posse score at a pace similar to the teams in the middle of the KIJHL based on 'Goals For' per game. Princeton averages 3.63 goals per game on offense, while giving up an average of 3.38 goals against, which is also in the middle of the pack.
Comparing the Steam and the Posse, the numbers of the two teams are very similar. Both teams have 9 wins, both are good on special teams, and both can score goals with some of the best in the league. Some of the big differences are in goal differential (Summerland +14, Princeton +4) and in Goals Against Average as the Steam carry a 2.67 team GAA coming into Friday's contest in comparison to Princeton's 3.38 team GAA.
From what's been observed in the first 2 months of the season, the Posse will have no problem dumping the puck in deep and going to work, making life difficult for the Steam defense. Princeton, as they do every single season, has assembled a hockey team that is equipped to play any style of game that arises throughout the course of the season. They can beat you with skill when they have a chance but they can also take the body and beat teams along the boards and cause serious problems for teams in their own end of the ice.
Having said that, it's another difference between this Princeton team and the 2014/15 Summerland Steam. Summerland can play the physical game all night long when needed, but they'd much rather beat teams with speed and skill, pound shots at the net and score off the rush. In order to do that against a physical hockey team, it'll be important for the Steam to capitalize on their zone exits from their defensive zone. They will need to clear on the first opportunity when it arises and ensure they don't have the puck going the wrong direction as they break up ice.
Regardless of the differences in style of play, Friday night's game should be an entertaining one at the Summerland Arena, and on Halloween night we hope you're planning to join us! We've got plenty of things in store including Family Packs of tickets for just $20, giveaways from Game Night Sponsor Nesters Market, a 2 night stay giveaway from the Best Western Inn at Penticton and some deals and prizes to be had at the Spud Bros. Concession! Puck drop is 7:30 but you catch myself and Mike Swanson on the KIJHL webcast from www.kijhl.ca around 7:15!