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Friday, 26 December 2014

STEAM, COYOTES LOCK UP IN 'CLASH OF THE TITANS'

It's a rivalry like no other.Whenever the Summerland Steam and the Osoyoos Coyotes face-off it's a battle between two teams that have a special amount of dislike reserved only for each other. Nothing about that statement will change this weekend as the top two teams in the Okanagan Division go head to head twice. The first meeting will come Saturday when the Steam visit the desert, the second on Sunday when the Coyotes come to Summerland.

SEASON SERIES: 3-0 'Yotes

Summerland is 0-3 against Osoyoos this season, but will look to change that this weekend. In 2 of the first 3 games the teams have played the scores have been fairly lopsided due to a lack of discipline on the part of the Summerland Steam. A 6-2 beating on home ice at the hands of the Coyotes on October 13th saw the season series get off to a rocky start for the Steam. Summerland allowed the league's best powerplay (at the time) to score 4 times with the man advantage en route to the victory.

In the second meeting it was far closer, a 5-4 score that saw both teams go 0-for-3 on the powerplay and play a tight checking, clean, physical hockey game. Both teams played an up-tempo, extremely entertaining hockey game that saw Summerland come up one goal short.

In the third installment of the season series on November 29th, much of the same from the first meeting took place. Osoyoos went 4-for-9 on the powerplay en route to a 7-2 thrashing of Summerland in a game that saw nothing positive go on for the Steam.

If you're like me, you see a common theme here and it's special teams. If Summerland can keep Osoyoos off the powerplay this hockey game will be close. If not, well, we're going to see a result much the same as a 6-2 Osoyoos win or a 7-2 Osoyoos win.

Osoyoos Coyotes

With 11 returnees from last season and over half of their roster at age 19 or above, the Coyotes are as veteran a team as there is in the KIJHL. Players have played in this league before and know exactly what to expect from every team on every night, which should give them an advantage that most teams wouldn't have. Not only are the Coyotes a veteran team but of those 11 returning players from last season, they returned 6 of their top 7 scorers from the 2013/14 team. It's no surprise they are where they are.

The Coyotes are an extremely deep team, particularly up front, and can score with all 4 lines. It shows when you put them on the powerplay and they have 3 of the top scorers in the KIJHL on their top unit, and 3 guys on their 2nd unit that would be top line players on any other team in the KI.

Along with their offensive prowess, the 'Yotes are strong in goal with a tandem of Brett Soles and Lawrence Langan. Both split duties for Head Coach and General Manager Ken Law, and no matter who is between the red pipes for Osoyoos they always have a chance to win. They hold a team Goals Against Average of 2.46, again the best in the league, and are very tough to crack.

Looking at the statistics, it's no secret that the 'Yotes are the best team in the KIJHL. They are quite possibly the best Jr. B team in BC at the moment. They started the season with 12 straight wins and have rolled from there to 57 points and 28 wins in 35 games. They are a complete hockey team playing under a veteran KIJHL coach in Ken Law, who knows how to win hockey games and get the best out of his players.

The Coyotes offensive depth will help them this weekend, as Luc Gradisar will be out of the lineup and Aaron Azevedo may likely miss time as well. Jackson Glimpel will sit Saturday night's game with a 1-game suspension and will likely draw back into the lineup on Sunday night in Summerland for the 'Yotes.

Summerland Steam


Summerland is no doubt in tough in back to back games against the Coyotes this weekend, but they're up for the challenge. The Steam have been rolling of late, winning 8 of their last 10 games and outworking opponents night in and night out. Right now the team is playing their best hockey of the season and clicking on all cylinders, which is exactly what Head Coach John Depourcq has been working on with them leading into the Christmas break.

In those last 10 games, their only losses are at the hands of the Osoyoos Coyotes (7-2, November 29th) and the Chase Heat (4-3, December 12th). With key victories over divisional opponents such as the Princeton Posse, North Okanagan Knights, and Kelowna Chiefs so far in the month of December, the Steam have been able to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division below them. They trail Osoyoos by 12 points (with 4 games in hand) and lead the Princeton Posse by 13 points and the Kelowna Chiefs by 14.

The Steam will start their post-Christmas schedule trying to push closer to the Coyotes at the top of the division and further distance themselves from the rest of the pack. The Steam have been getting contributions from everywhere since they really picked up the pace at the beginning of November.

Head Coach John Depourcq is getting contributions from up and down his lineup right now and the goaltending from the tandem of Brett Huber and Spencer Huff has been nothing short of exceptional since that 7-2 loss to the Coyotes on November 29th. After a weekend sweep of the Princeton Posse leading into the Christmas break, the Steam will need every bit of that exceptional goaltending and scoring depth in this weekend's series with Osoyoos.

The one key that stands out above all else for the Steam, however, is Special Teams. Summerland has gotten themselves into trouble against Osoyoos so far this season, but when at 5-on-5 play they've kept fairly even. They'll need to stay out of the penalty box this weekend in order to have any chance at some points against a very tough divisional opponent who is VERY good with the man advantage. The Coyotes are particularly on home ice, clipping along at an even 28.00% success rate.

The task may be tough for the Steam, as lately they've been without two of their top penalty killers in Coleton Fisher and Alex Williams. Williams will for sure sit this weekend's action and the next few weeks as well with a hand injury, while Fisher is day-to-day recovering from an upper body injury and could draw back in this weekend.


Puck drop goes at the Sun Bowl Arena in Osoyoos at 7:35 on Saturday night, while the return match goes at the Summerland Arena on Sunday NIGHT at 7:30. Tickets for Sunday's game can be purchased in advance at Nesters Market in downtown Summerland or at the door prior to puck drop!