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Friday, 9 January 2015

STEAM HEAD NORTH HOPING TO 'CHASE' AWAY A STREAK

The upcoming weekend starts with a road game on Saturday for the Summerland Steam as they board the bus and go to Chase for a 7PM start with the Heat. It is their one and only trip to the Art Holding Memorial Arena this season and a chance to get even with a Heat team that sits 4th in a very tightly compacted Doug Birks Division. The two teams have met once already this season at the Summerland Arena, with the result being a 4-3 win for Chase thanks to a late powerplay goal by captain Kaleb Boyle. Summerland will be looking for a little retribution on Saturday night when the two teams complete their season series.

The loss to the Heat on December 12th seems to be the date circled on the calendar as the night the Steam started to regress a little bit defensively. The game winner in that contest was made possible by a couple of defensive zone breakdowns on the part of Summerland. The first resulted in the tying goal from Wes Matsuda with just over 7:00 to play, and the second led to the powerplay that ultimately allowed Boyle to score the game winner with just 2:35 left on the clock.

Since that night they've been having some problems clearing their own zone, particularly on the first attempt, and it's causing all sorts of problems for them. One could argue that mistakes at your own blue line lead to running around in your own zone, and the Steam have been doing too much of that over the past few games. They'll be looking to get it together this weekend and grab a couple of wins to get back on track. 

In losses to the Osoyoos Coyotes (2), Princeton Posse (2) and Sicamous Eagles (1), only one has come at a deficit of more than one goal. One costly mistake or bad penalty has cost them each of those 5 games, and that fact isn't lost on the coaching staff. They've really worked in practice this week on tweaking their defensive system to perhaps eliminate that one costly mistake that they've been making as of late. They'll look to put the tweaks into action this weekend against two teams (Chase and North Okanagan) who will be hungry for wins.

With the losses the Steam have suffered in the past two weeks, there isn't a possible way to catch the Osoyoos Coyotes. The Coyotes are 21 points ahead in the standings and should officially clinch the division in a matter of about a week. They are off this weekend, which gives Summerland a chance to make up 2 of their 3 games in hand.

If the Steam want to keep the 2nd spot in the division (and home ice in the playoffs) they need to 'stop the bleeding' so to speak and pick themselves up a couple of points this weekend. While Summerland has been cold of late, the Princeton Posse are heating up after a post-Christmas team meeting called by Head Coach Bill Rotheisler. The Posse have won three straight and sit only 8 points back of the 2nd place Steam as they head through the Kootenays this weekend to play in Golden, Columbia Valley and Creston. They could theoretically trim the gap to just 2 points if they go 3/3 and the Steam go 0/2 this weekend.

Things are starting to get real in the Okanagan Division with the 4 playoff teams virtually in place, and it'll be up to the Summerland Steam to make sure they don't get left in the dust by a surging Posse team if they want to hang onto their home ice advantage.

LINEUP NEWS



- Summerland will get some much needed two-way help injected into the lineup this weekend as both Daylan Robertson and Paulsen Lautard will return to the Steam lineup. Both are defensively responsible forwards that can put up big points, which is something the Steam sorely need. Lautard will play his first game since November 9th when he joined the Trail Smoke Eaters, while Robertson has been attending UBCO and has not suited up for a game this season.

- Braden Eliuk and Wyatt Gale will also be game-time decisions in Chase on Saturday night. Gale and Eliuk both missed last Sunday's game against the Princeton Posse after being knocked out of the game against Sicamous on Friday.

- The Steam will also get some help on the blue line this weekend as Cole Williams is ready to return from an upper body injury suffered prior to the Holiday break. The other Williams, Alex, remains out after having surgery on his wrist a little over a week ago and won't see action until the first round of the playoffs at the very earliest.

- Goaltender Brett Huber remains sidelined with a lower body injury that will see him miss the next 1-2 weeks, as per GM Gregg Wilson. Spencer Huff will likely play on back to back nights for the Steam with AP goaltender Jared Breitkreuz serving as his backup.


- ** With the trade deadline looming on Saturday evening, GM Gregg Wilson will be busy fielding phone calls and presumably making some himself. Whether the Steam do anything or stand pat remains to be seen. Keep eyes on Twitter ( @SteamKIJHL ) ( @Steam_Voice) for all the updates we can get on the Steam's roster as well as the rest of the rosters in the KIJHL.

Game time in Chase on Saturday night is 7PM and you can catch all the action on KIJHL.ca. The Steam return home to face the North Okanagan Knights on Sunday at 5:30 at the Summerland Arena. Mike and I will be live on KIJHL.ca around 5:15 to set up the contest as well as have a look at the trade activity around the league if there is any.