Coming into a weekend that will see the Summerland Steam play both the Kelowna Chiefs (at home) and the Osoyoos Coyotes (on the road), the boys from Summerland are feeling pretty good. They've won 4 in a row, they've jumped to 2nd in the division with multiple games in hand on their division rivals, and they've come together as a group after losing their captain and leading scorer.
This coming Friday marks the Summerland Festival of Lights, and for the first time in the history of the current ownership group, the Steam will not be out in the community during 'Light-Up'. Instead, as a culmination to the festivities downtown on Friday afternoon/evening, the Steam will take on a familiar foe in the Kelowna Chiefs on Friday night at the Summerland Arena. Tickets will be just $8 for Adults, $6 for Seniors, and students from ALL middle schools and secondary schools from Penticton to West Kelowna get in FREE when they show their student ID card at the door!
The Steam haven't made a trip to the Rutland Arena to play the Chiefs yet, but the two teams will play their 3rd game of the season head to head on Friday. Summerland has started the season 2-0 against the Chiefs, winning 6-1 on opening night and 5-2 on October 24th. Since their previous meeting, the Chiefs have gone 6-3-1-0-1 while the Steam have gone 5-2-0-1. You'll see there's an extra column in Kelowna's stat line, as they had a 5-0 win over the Osoyoos Coyotes defaulted to a 1-0 loss on October 25th due to an ineligible player. That player was Austin Braid, who was suspended after being assessed a game misconduct for goaltender interference after running over Brett Huber in the last meeting between Summerland and Kelowna.
It's no secret that these two division rivals have a certain distaste for one another. The rivalry goes back as long as I've been involved with the KIJHL, and it seems as though every battle between the two adds fuel to an already burning fire. There will be no shortage of physical play in Friday night's contest, and both teams and their coaches will want to come out with nothing short of a victory.
Without counting that defaulted loss to Osoyoos, Kelowna has been on quite a roll and have found their groove. The boys from Rutland seem to be gelling together as a team and buying into the philosophies put forth by first year Head Coach Jason Tansem. They're still under .500 (0.442% winning percentage) for the season, but with their play continuing to strengthen it won't be long before they're there as they've gone 6-3-0-1 in their last 10 games.
Early in the season the Chiefs seemed to have some trouble scoring goals, as Jonathan Lee and Ethan Rusnack put up most of their points and still lead the team with 34 and 28 points respectively. The Chiefs continue to struggle to score goals (2.92 per game, 18th in KIJHL), but have improved lately. In recent games though they've had strong efforts turned in by some of their veterans, as Dylan Jamieson, Josh Kobelka and Braeden Cyra have all begun to turn it around after a bit of a slow start.
Kelowna's special teams have started to come around recently as well. They've improved to 13th in the KIJHL at 13.45% on the powerplay while carrying an 82.19% success rate on the penalty kill, good for 12th in the league.
As for team defense, goaltender Chris Turner seems to be the backbone of the Chiefs, turning in strong effort after strong effort as of late after struggling out of the gate. Turner now sits right next to Summerland's Brett Huber in the top 10 goalie rankings in the KIJHL with a 2.80 GAA and a .915 SV%. He has made starts both times these two teams have gone head to head, and has been good in both games despite the results. He'll likely get the start again on Friday when the teams go head to head for meeting number 3 of 8 on the season.
In goal for Summerland it will likely be Brett Huber, also in the top 10 in the KIJHL among goaltenders with a 2.06 GAA and a .906% SV%. Since Steam captain Paulsen Lautard signed in Trail, it has been a 20 man effort every single game that's resulted in 3 wins and 14 goals for. For a team that lost it's leading scorer, an average of nearly 5 goals per game isn't bad. It's been the likes of Cole Woodliffe, Riley Pettitt, Braden Eliuk and Jack Mills, among others, who have stepped up offensively for the Steam.
While playing a sound game in the offensive zone (3.59 GF per game, 8th in KIJHL), Summerland has maintained one trait that has been a constant all season which is team defense. Head Coach John Depourcq as well as assistants Wade Parker and Matt Taylor have preached defense first early in the season and it's showing, with the team's goals against average continuing to drop in the right direction and holding steady at 1st overall at 2.50.
In addition to scoring depth and sound defense, Summerland is very good on special teams. They currently hold steady at 8th in the KIJHL on the powerplay at 16.98%, and 3rd on the Penalty Kill at 87.50%. They'll look to take advantage of their powerplay numbers in this hockey game, while surely trying to limit the number of times they find themselves shorthanded.
As far as personnel is concerned, Kendell Wilson won't play for Summerland vs Kelowna on Friday. A suspension was assessed by the KIJHL for a fight in the last 10 minutes of Saturday night's 4-1 win over the Princeton Posse that will see him miss Friday's contest. This MAY give us another look at young Tristan Bukovec, a 16 year old AP from the Okanagan Hockey Academy. It remains to be seen if the kid they call "Buke" is available to play this weekend, but he certainly impressed in his first KIJHL game vs the Creston Valley Thunder Cats last Friday.
Puck drop is 7:30 on Light Up Night in Summerland, but head downtown starting at 5:00pm for live entertainment, great booths from tons of vendors, and more food than you can ever eat!
Tickets for the tilt between Summerland and Kelowna are just $8 for adults, $6 for Seniors, and STUDENTS FROM WEST KELOWNA, PEACHLAND, SUMMERLAND AND PENTICTON GET IN FREE WHEN SHOWING THEIR STUDENT ID CARD AT THE DOOR.