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Thursday, 19 February 2015

STEAM, CHIEFS RENEW HOSTILITIES IN FIRST ROUND PLAYOFF MATCHUP

Summerland's Riley Pettitt faces off with a Kelowna Chiefs player in a game
on February 6th at the Summerland Arena.
Photo: Sarah Mayer (shotsbysarah.tumblr.com
52 games have come and gone in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League this season, and seemingly we're right back where we started. The Summerland Steam opened the 2014/15 season at home on a Friday night against the Kelowna Chiefs, blowing the doors off the visitors in a 6-2 victory. They'll hope to do the same thing this Friday when the two teams open the 'second season' at the Summerland Arena.

With Summerland finishing 2nd in their division with 61 points and Kelowna finishing 3rd with 50, Summerland will hold home-ice advantage in the first round. The Chiefs went 2-0 on the final weekend of the season with wins over Princeton and Summerland, which jumped them ahead of the Posse by one point and secured the #2 vs #3 matchup against the Steam. It also kept them out of the #1 vs #4 matchup with the KIJHL Regular Season Champion Osoyoos Coyotes.

These Steam and the Chiefs did battle 8 times throughout the regular season with Summerland holding a 5-3 edge in the win column. Having said that, the Chiefs came on late in the season and won 2 of the final 3 meetings. Both teams like home ice in this matchup, Summerland coming in 3-1 at home while the Chiefs sit even at 2-2.

Summerland started well in the regular season and were fairly consistent throughout, cruising to a second place finish in the KIJHL's Okanagan Division. They faded a little down the stretch, going 3-4-2-1 in their final 10 games, but have a fresh slate headed into the playoffs with all but Alex Williams healthy and available on the active roster. Williams is back skating with the team in practice, but GM Gregg Wilson does not expect him to make an appearance in the first round playoff series with Kelowna.

 Kelowna, on the other hand, started slowly and picked it up as the season went on. They weren't much better in their final 10 games going 5-5, but it was enough to get them past the Posse and into 3rd place. They've been much improved since making a couple of moves early in the season, acquiring Ryan Lawson and Carter Melnyk in separate trades with the Columbia Valley Rockies. The Chiefs were also bolstered by the return of Nick Josephs at the December 1st deadline, although he didn't play a game for the Chiefs until January 10th. In the 8 games Josephs has played in a Chiefs uniform this season he's recorded 18 points (9g + 9a).

Summerland is going to have to be sure to contain Josephs, as well as the other Kelowna forwards, if they want to win this series. The Chiefs are an extremely dangerous and confident team heading into the playoffs, and in my opinion are a little more to handle than a regular #3 seed when all their bodies are healthy.

Talking to people on both sides of this rivalry, there's one word that seems to come to the forefront to describe this series:

  FUN. 

The two teams have their fair share of hostilities to settle, but it'll be the team who keeps their composure who wins the series. Both teams have problems doing that, as both recorded over 900 total penalty minutes each during the regular season, which makes discipline matter that much more in a series like this. Both teams play well (in the top half of the KI) on special teams and have several weapons at their disposal to use with the man advantage. The team whose best players are exactly that in this series is the team who is going to win, and it's going to be a lot of fun to watch it unfold.



PLAYOFF SCHEDULE FOR ROUND 1: 

GAME 1: Friday, Feb 20 @ 7:30. Summerland Arena 
GAME 2: Saturday, Feb 21 @ 7:30. Summerland Arena
GAME 3: Sunday, Feb 22 @ 7:00. Rutland Arena 
GAME 4: Tuesday, Feb 24 @ 7:00. Rutland Arena 
GAME 5: Thursday, Feb 26 @ 7:30, Summerland Arena **
GAME 6: Friday, Feb 27 @ 7:00. Rutland Arena **
GAME 7: Saturday, Feb 28 @ 7:30. Summerland Arena **


** - If necessary