Steam Look to Embrace Underdog Role in Series With Red-Hot Chiefs

📸 Steve Dunsmoor – Dunsmoor Creative / Kelowna Chiefs

It’s time.

Time for teams to hit the giant red reset button and get down to what really matters. The playoffs.

For those not familiar, you’re in for a ride. KIJHL Playoffs are the most terrifying, gruelling, humbling games that are played on our calendar. Teams are required to complete up to 7 of the fastest, most physical games of the year in 9 nights. And the teams that go on could have to do that up to 4 times. At max, it’s 28 games in 36 days, and at absolute minimum it’s 16 in the same span. Both are a lot, but both are a lot of fun, and that’s what we’re in for in the coming months.

If the playoffs started in December, the feeling around the first round playoff series between the Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs would be a lot different than it is right now. The Chiefs were sputtering, struggling to keep the puck out of their net and playing in tight games that they probably deserved better results in.

Summerland, meanwhile,was thriving and leading the Okanagan Division thanks to both strong play and strength of schedule. The latter was looked at as something those around the organization had a feeling would catch up to them later on in the season, and it did in the way of a poor January that saw Summerland lose 7 of 8.

Since January 1st the script has been flipped for these two bitter rivals, who will do battle in the first round of the KIJHL Playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. The Chiefs found stability in goal from 20-year old Joe McLeod, and began to fill the net using their speed, and their power play to create chances for themselves.

They’ve got offensive talent abound, led by 20-year old captain Brett Witala and 18-year old Brody Dale. Witala, who led the conference in points by nearly 30, came up just a couple of points shy of Creston’s Liam Plunkett in the KIJHL scoring race, while Dale’s collected a cool 39 points in 14 games since his return after the Christmas break from the NOJHL.

Combine the two with Zach Erhardt, Juanre Naude, Devon Sutton and Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise, who all average at least a point per game, and it gives you undoubtedly the most talented ‘Top 6’ in the KIJHL.

They’ve used this ‘Top 6’, along with 20-year old defenseman Cole Williams, who also averages a point per game, to form a somewhat balanced attack that relies on beating teams in transition and using their speed to create scoring chances and penalties.

They’ve done remarkably well with this model since they acquired the talent that’s gotten them where they are starting in early December. They had Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise return, added Zach Erhardt from the AJHL, and had Dale return from Junior A to bolster a lineup that already included Sutton, Naude, and Brett Witala.

Since the arrival of their full compliment on January 1st, the Chiefs have outscored their opponents by a wild 90-47 margin while going 12-2-0-1 during that span. Their only regulation losses included a pair of 6-3 defeats, one to the Osoyoos Coyotes and one to the 100 Mile House Wranglers.

Summerland, meanwhile, has now found trouble keeping the puck out of their net, particularly against their two most heated rivals, the Chiefs and the Osoyoos Coyotes. They struggled out of the gate after the break, winning just four of their first 11 post-Christmas games, including a string of 7 losses in 8 tries that allowed the Chiefs to climb back into the race for second place. Three bad losses to the Chiefs, 11-4, 9-0, and 9-4 are the reason the Chiefs will have home ice advantage, and be favoured, in this series.

The Steam seemed to take a big step forward last weekend in their final regular season game, as they went to the Revelstoke Forum and spanked the conference winning Grizzlies by a 6-2 score. It was a game that showed what Summerland was made of. They were fast, they were physical, and they bordered on just that little bit of mean that will get them somewhere in a series that will require it.

In the season series against the Chiefs Summerland went 3-3-0-2. Those three wins came early, in the first three meetings of the year, which were followed by two overtime losses in a row and three blowouts in a row to finish off the season series.

Part of it will be stepping up and changing their game to combat Kelowna’s strengths, which is of course their speed through the middle of the ice. Another key for the Steam will be to keep the Kelowna power play, which seems like it’s operating at about 70% efficiency since Christmas, off the ice.

Finally, the Steam will need their veterans to step up. Matt Huber will have to be strong in goal, Sam Jones and Brogan Lautard will have to lead by example for a young defense core that’s been better than expected all season long, and forwards Scott Robinson and Blake Holowaty will have to use their good hockey sense and strong offensive ability to help direct traffic and shots to the front of the net of Kelowna’s Joe McLeod. That’s the only way to beat a goaltender who’s gone 11-1 since his arrival in early January, and Summerland will have to figure that out quickly if they want a chance to be in this series.

If the team that showed up on home ice Friday against these same Kelowna Chiefs shows up, Summerland’s in trouble. If the team that showed up Saturday in Revelstoke makes an appearance though, we could be in for one hell of a hockey series. For the fourth year in a row, it’s the Steam and the Chiefs in Round 1 of the KIJHL Playoffs, and Summerland hopes for the fourth year in a row the series results in a Steam victory and a meeting with either the Osoyoos Coyotes or the Princeton Posse in Round 2.

Games 1&2 go Friday and Saturday from Rutland Arena, starting at 7PM.

Games 3&4 will be played Monday and Tuesday at the Summerland Arena, both 7:30pm start times. Joel and I will have pre-game for both of those contests starting at 7:15pm on Playfullscreen.com

Advertisements

Steam, Chiefs Battle for Home Ice in Playoff Preview

With two games remaining each, the Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs have yet to decide who will have home ice advantage in their first round playoff series. After each team won two of three games last weekend, Summerland remains one point clear of the rival Chiefs as the final weekend of KIJHL Regular Season play kicks off Friday.

The two will have a chance to control their own destiny, as they face off one last time in the regular season on Friday night at 7:30pm at the Summerland Arena. The Steam are able to clinch 2nd place and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a regulation victory, and will surely be looking to avenge the two nasty losses (11-4 and 9-0) to the Chiefs in Rutland a couple of weeks ago.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, can take possession of 2nd place and control their own destiny with a win in Summerland Friday. Both teams play their final regular season game Saturday with Summerland visiting the best team in the conference, the Revelstoke Grizzlies, and the Chiefs playing host to the Okanagan Division’s 4th place Princeton Posse.

Summerland has been able to get back to playing their game as of late, picking up victories over the Osoyoos Coyotes (5-4 OTW) and 100 Mile House Wranglers (7-4) in a tough back to back last weekend. They were unable to complete the weekend sweep on Monday afternoon, falling to the Princeton Posse by a 3-2 score thanks to Mort Johnston’s goal with 1:05 remaining in regulation time.

The loss was a big one, as a victory would have put them three points clear of the Chiefs with just two games remaining. Instead, they’ll battle those Chiefs head-to-head to see who will gain home ice advantage in the Okanagan Division Semi-Final, which starts February 23rd.

More important than the result on Monday was the fact that the team that got shell-shocked in Rutland twice the week previous was nowhere to be found. The Steam were using their speed to create offensive chances both off the rush and on the forecheck, and were (for the most part) tight and controlled in the defensive zone. None of those things were happening during the stretch where they lost six straight and seven of eight during a miserable January, so it’s good to see they’re getting the bugs worked out at the right time.

As for the Kelowna Chiefs, they’ve been on a torrid pace since Christmas, putting up goals in bunches on route to an 11-2-0-1 record in 14 contests. The arrival of goaltenders Joe McLeod, 20, and Reign Turley, 19, during the Christmas break solidified what had quickly turned into a position of weakness for the Chiefs, and off they went.

McLeod, a Kelowna resident, had started the season with the Drayton Valley Thunder of the AJHL before returning home to await a trade that never materialized. Instead, the former Castlegar Rebel found a home with the Chiefs, and promptly went 9-0 in his first nine starts. Turley, meanwhile, was playing Men’s Senior AA hockey near his home in Quesnel, BC, and landed with the Chiefs for the remainder of 2017/18.

Their newly solidified goaltending tandem, added to the return of forward Brody Dale and the acquisition of former Summerland Steam defenseman Matt Alcorn from the Campbell River Storm, filled a couple of holes in the Chiefs lineup and turned them into a contender.

The Chiefs were potent before with the likes of Brett Witala, Juanre Naude, and Devin Suttion in their employ, but got significantly stronger with the addition (again) of Dale in particular. He’s put up a low-key (insert eye-roll) 11 goals and 33 points in the 12 games since his return, and slots in on a line with Juanre Naude that does a lot of damage when the top line of Brett Witala, Zach Erhardt, and Devin Sutton are not on the ice.

Witala, who for my money is the best one-on-one player in the KIJHL, recently had a 19 game point streak snapped in 100 Mile House last Sunday afternoon. In those 19 games, Witala notched 15 goals, including six two-goal outings, and 53 points to send him into the Top-5 in KIJHL scoring with 82 points in just 35 games.

With all this offense coming fast and furious, mixed with their newfound goaltending stability, the Chiefs picked up 17 of 18 possible points in their first nine games post-Christmas. They’ve also scored at an alarming rate and convert on the power play more often than not, so it’s important to keep them in check.

These are the reasons they were able to close a sizeable gap on the Summerland Steam, mixed of course with Summerland’s streak of bad results, and force a 2nd place showdown tonight at the Summerland Arena.

The Steam will look to continue to build on their last three games. They’ve been much better at getting pucks and bodies to the front of the goal, and that’s what’s needed to beat a good hockey team and a great goaltender like Joe McLeod.

📸 Steve Dunsmoor, Dunsmoor Creative /Kelowna Chiefs

Summerland’s veterans, 20-year olds Scott Robinson, Blake Holowaty, Sam Jones, Brogan Lautard, and Matt Huber have done well to lead their team out of whatever funk they were in during the month of January, and will need to be on their toes again tonight to lead a young team to victory over an extremely potent Kelowna Chiefs squad.

It is unclear as of yet whether Summerland will get Everett Scherger, Ryan Allen, or Niall Lawrie back prior to the first game of the KIJHL Playoffs.

Puck drop tonight goes at 7:30pm. Joel and I will be on-air starting at 7:15pm with full pre-game on playfullscreen.com.

Steam Lock Up With Coyotes, Looking to Get Back on Track

📸 : Victoria Rich Photography

Pardon the pun in the post title, but there’s no other way to put it. The Summerland Steam and the Osoyoos Coyotes will do battle on Friday night at the Summerland Arena, and Summerland will be looking to find a way out of the stretch of bad luck against good teams that they’re in. They’ve managed just one win since January 10th, which is unheard of for a franchise who’s lost more than three games in a row on just two occasions in their seven year history.

They’ve been stricken with the injury bug, no doubt, but they’re a better hockey team than the results have shown recently. They haven’t been playing their best hockey, but they’ve been playing good enough hockey to not get beat by scores of 9-3, 11-4 and 9-0 during this stretch where they’ve won just four of their last 11 games (4-5-0-2).

It’s been a story of hot goaltenders and bad luck for the Summerland Steam during this stretch, mixed with their struggles on the power play and getting bodies in front of opposing goaltenders to cause problems. They’ll be looking to get these types of things sorted out, and pointed in the right direction with five games remaining before the playoffs begin on February 23.

That starts tonight, and they better be ready to play, as the Okanagan Division Champion Osoyoos Coyotes pay their fourth and final visit to the Summerland Arena. Summerland hasn’t faired well against the Coyotes this season, winning just one of the previous seven meetings against their rivals from the south. The official line will read 1-4-0-2 in the season series, but it still boils down to six losses in seven tries, which is a big reason the Coyotes ran away with the Okanagan Division for the fourth season in a row.

The Coyotes are healthy, as they always seem to be, and are led by a veteran core group of players including Colin Bell, Carter Shannon, Carter Robinson, Hunter Johnson, and the recently returned Judd Repole. Repole, a 5th year Coyote, missed all of January with injury, and has just recently returned to the Coyotes lineup. He notched 2 assists in his return last Saturday night against the Kelowna Chiefs, a 6-3 Coyotes victory.

Once thought to be the powerhouses of the Okanagan Division, the Coyotes and the Steam have been joined by the upstart Kelowna Chiefs, who’ve gained points in all but that game since the Holiday Break in December. They’re playing their best hockey at the right time of year, and they’ve proven they belong in the conversation when talking about the best teams in the division and the KIJHL as a whole.

That stretch of strong play for the Chiefs has included two rather large victories over the Steam just last week, and closed the gap to make 2nd place and home ice advantage a dogfight with 5 games to go. An 11-4 thrashing last Friday, and a 9-0 drubbing this past Tuesday night, both in Rutland, saw the Chiefs big names feast on an unlucky, and frustrated, Summerland Steam hockey club.

Brody Dale notched 12 points in the two contests, giving him 43 on the season in just 16 games. Brett Witala, who’s been on a hot streak for the ages, extended his point streak to 18 games on Tuesday night with four points, giving him 52 (!!!!!) during that span and 81 on the season. He’s got 15 goals in those 18 games, including six 2-goal games to send him to the top 3 for points (and points per game) in the KIJHL. Witala has vaulted into a battle with Creston Valley Thunder Cats forwards Liam Plunkett and Ronnie Wilkie for the league lead in points, and Witala’s done it in ten less games.

The two teams are locked into the 2/3 matchup in the Okanagan Division Playoffs, which start February 23rd. It remains to be seen who will have home ice, but the two organizations have come together to offer fans on both sides of the series a great deal on tickets.

Playoff Ticket Package

Being that dates are currently unknown, the Steam and the Chiefs have come together to offer four games, two in each arena, for $30. It gives die hard fans of both teams a reason to travel and watch the first four games of what’s sure to be an entertaining first round playoff series for the fourth straight season. Summerland has won the previous three, but it took six, seven, and seven games, respectively, to get it done.

As for the regular season, which there is still five games left in, Summerland will be looking to shake off the most recent loss on Friday night with the Coyotes in town. The Steam will be looking to start to get back to some of the things that had them so successful early in the year. That was leaning on their veteran defensive core, making clean exits at their blue line, and using their speed on the rush to create opportunities in the offensive zone.

The Steam will lack a little grit tonight, with Liam McLaren and Sammy Gabriel both sitting suspensions for fighting related offenses. Gabriel was banned three games, alongside Kelowna’s Hayden Courtenay for what was classified as a “staged fight” last Friday night.

McLaren, meanwhile, will sit a mandatory one-game suspension for being the second fight on the same stoppage in play on Tuesday night after an altercation with 20-year old Kelowna defender Rhys Colpron.

Add those two absences to the ones already incurred by injury, including Everett Scherger, Ryan Allen and Niall Lawrie, and things get a little thin for Summerland in the numbers department. They could also be without Bailey Tamminga, who at last check was still being evaluated after a nasty instance of unsportsmanlike conduct from Kelowna’s Zach Erhardt on Tuesday night.

After coming together on the end wall and both ending up on the ice, Erhardt was the first to get up. Instead of getting back into the play, Erhardt grabbed Tamminga around the neck and threw him over, the former using his hip as a leverage point.

Tamminga’s legs were stuck under Erhardt at the time, causing the legs to stay put while the rest of Tamminga’s body was thrown over Erhard’t back. Tamminga was in visible pain and had to be helped off the ice by teammates and Steam athletic trainers Josh Dacosta and Josh Jenkinson. There is no word on whether he will be available to Head Coach John Depourcq tonight or not.

If all of these bodies remain sidelined, the Steam will either have to play a short bench or use affiliate players against the Coyotes. This means we could see the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s Kaden Moravek or Bevis Chou again, or Ty Banser, Zackery Cooper or Tristan Hewitt from the South Zone Midget T1 Knights when the Steam take the ice tonight.

Puck drop will go at 7:30 PM on the first of three games for Summerland this weekend. They’ll play at home tonight against Osoyoos, they’ll travel to 100 Mile House tomorrow night for a 7pm start, and then return home for a Monday Matinee on Family Day with the Princeton posse at 2PM.

FAMILY DAY 2018

There’s lots happening, so come down and check it out! Family packs are just $20!

Rogers Nets Winner, Huber Shines as Steam Bump the Slump

File photo: Victoria Rich Photography

Finally, the slump is busted.

On Saturday night, the Summerland Steam were able to put an end to their longest losing streak since October of 2013 with a 5-3 win over the North Okanagan Knights. The streak ends at 6 games, and pulls Summerland back into 2nd place in the division with the combination of a Kelowna Chiefs loss in Osoyoos. It was Summerland’s first victory since a road win in Princeton on January 10th, and it was badly needed.

The Chiefs had taken over sole possession of 2nd place for the first time this season with a big 11-4 victory over Summerland on Friday night in Rutland.

After having absolutely zero ‘puck luck’ and running into hot goaltenders for 4 straight games, the Steam went into Kelowna and found much of the same. The Chiefs were bouncing pucks in off bodies, and when they weren’t doing that it was hitting players and falling onto open sticks resulting in Chiefs goals.

The home team scored 11, 4 of them on the power play, and five of them off bad bounces and bad luck. It was just one of those nights for the Summerland Steam, who got goals from Luke Jirousek (13), Scott Robinson (19), Cairo Rogers (9) and Wyatt Kelly (2).

They were unlucky to be down 3-1 after a first period that saw them own possession time and an edge in shots. The bad luck continued in the second, and then frustration set in during a third period that saw the Chiefs score five times, four on power plays.

Saturday night was much different. The Steam headed for Armstrong and a meeting with the North Okanagan Knights, looking to overcome the bad luck that had sent them into a six game spiral.

They got into some trouble early, having to kill an early 5-on-3, but were able to weather the storm and get through it. It was thanks to their 20-year olds that they were able to persevere and get through the bad luck to bust the slump and start to get things back on track.

Matt Huber made 34 saves on 37 shots to pick up the victory, Blake Holowaty and Scott Robinson chipped in a goal and an assist each, while Same Jones and Brogan Lautard each collected an assist while playing big minutes.

The Steam did give up the first goal of the game, however, with 9:56 remaining in the first frame as Evan Loura scored his 9th of the year. Loura was the benefactor of a bad bounce, such is life lately for the Steam, and was able to locate an errant shot off the end boards at the left post to give the Knights the lead.

Holowaty would score his 20th with just over six minutes remaining in the first, on a wicked wrister from the high slot, to tie the game at 1 after a period.

Robinson would give the Steam the lead early in the second frame, his 20th of the season, from a nearly identical spot in the offensive zone. He was able to get there thanks to good work from Brogan Lautard and Morey Babakaiff inside the offensive zone, before Robinson was able to circle into the middle and fire a shot high to the glove side of Knights’ starter Chase Landa.

Ethan Grover, having seen the magic spot, made it 3-1 for Summerland from the exact same place, between the circles at the ringette line. His 7th put his team up by 2 late in the second frame, but the lead would last just :53. Evan Loura would bang home his second of the night and 10th of the year to cut the Steam lead to just a goal headed to the third frame.

The Knights, hungry for points as they try to catch the Princeton Posse for the fourth and final Okanagan Division Playoff berth, pushed in the third to the tune of a 15-5 shot advantage. They were able to score their lone goal of the third period and tie the game with 14:57 to play thanks to team captain Levi Harris. Harris, from Oliver, BC, notched just his third goal of the season, and his first in 28 games, to pull the Knights even.

Matt Huber was sensational in the Steam net in the third period, and was helped by his defenders to keep the game tied at 3 until the 6:11 mark of the third period.

That was when Cairo Rogers was able to convert a feed from Liam McLaren to give Summerland a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Hard work down low in the zone from McLaren and Scott Robinson freed the puck, and McLaren found Rogers camped in front of the goal for his 10th of the season and second in as many nights.

The Knights would continue to press to try to tie the game once more, and were even given a power play with almost 1:30 remaining, but Cody Swan would walk his 19th of the season into the empty net to round out the scoring and seal the deal for the Summerland Steam.

The win gets them back on track, pardon the pun, as it snaps their 6-game losing streak and jumps them back to 2nd place in the Okanagan Division. They trail the division leading Osoyoos Coyotes by 10 points in the standings with a game in hand, while being on top of the Chiefs by a single point with a game in hand there, as well. The Steam will play Osoyoos once and Kelowna twice more in their final six games.

It’s almost a dead certainty that the Kelowna Chiefs will await them in the first round of the KIJHL Playoffs. What remains to be seen is who will have the home ice advantage when those playoffs start on February 23rd.

The Steam will play four games in a seven day stretch, with some less than ideal travel included this week. They’ll start their week in Kelowna to face the Chiefs tonight at 7pm, before hosting the Coyotes Friday at 730pm, travelling to 100 Mile House on Saturday night, and returning home for a 2pm start on Monday afternoon against the Princeton Posse.

By the end of this week, the playoff picture should be more than clear headed into the final weekend of KIJHL league play on February 16-18.

Steam Look to Snap Skid Vs Coyotes

For the first time in a long time, the Summerland Steam find themselves on a sort of losing streak. With a 9-3 drubbing at the hands of the Osoyoos Coyotes two Sunday’s ago (January 14), a 4-1 loss to the Chase Heat on Friday, and a 4-3 OT loss to the Kelowna Chiefs on Saturday night, the red, white and black clad Steam have lost three games in a row.

Heading into Saturday’s game in Kelowna, December 16th/17th, 2016 was the last time Summerland had even lost two in a row, and the Chiefs made it three thanks to Devin Sutton’s power play goal in OT that sealed the deal.

It’s been a long time since the Steam have lost three straight games. To save you going back through the archives to find it, I did, and the last time the team lost three in a row they actually lost four in a row, on a Kootenay road trip in mid-October of 2015.

That’s a pretty good run, and they’ll look to get back on track with a pair of games against divisional rivals coming this weekend. They’ll see the Osoyoos Coyotes on Friday at home, before heading for Armstrong on Saturday night to play the North Okanagan Knights.

If Summerland has any hopes of catching the Coyotes, and avoiding the suddenly high-powered Kelowna Chiefs in the first round of the KIJHL Playoffs, it has to start with two wins this weekend. The Steam sit 5 points back of the first place Coyotes, while the Chiefs are all of a sudden lurking just six points behind.

The secret to beating the Coyotes is long gone, and that’s to keep them off special teams. They feast on the power play and they don’t like to get hit, which means the Steam will have to find the physical line, ride it, and hope for a better officiating performance than the last time the two teams met, which was the worst I’ve ever seen.

Despite the season series score line between Summerland and Osoyoos this season (1-5 record, -14 goal differential), the games have been close and fun to watch. That fourteen goal difference can mostly be accounted for in two games, the 9-3 loss on January 14 and a 7-3 loss on October 2 8th. And the January 14th game was a 3-2 game headed to the third period.

If you strike those from the record, Summerland is losing close games to Osoyoos, and it’s time they find a way over the hump. They need to be physical on the forecheck, air tight in the defensive zone, and the emotions have to stay in check. If that happens, they’re right there with the first place team in the conference and they know it.

They’ll have to do it this Friday night without one of their best two-way forwards in 20-year old Blake Holowaty. Holowaty was hit with an automatic one game suspension after he was ejected from last Saturday’s game in Kelowna with 1:25 to play for checking from behind. He’ll be set to return Saturday in Armstrong when the Steam play the North Okanagan Knights.

The Steam did get Luke Jirousek back last weekend, and he scored a power play goal in each game despite the two losses. He’s a big asset to the Summerland Steam with his ability to use his body to create opportunities, and his blistering shot to convert those opportunities. They will likely count on him with Holowaty out on Friday night to play a few more minutes against a strong opponent in the Coyotes.

For the Coyotes, they’ll start their weekend early with a visit to Princeton on Wednesday to play the Posse. They then host Sicamous on Saturday night in Osoyoos. They’ve been without a couple of key pieces as of late as well, as Judd Repole and Cody Allen have both been missing from the Coyotes’ lineup due to (presumably) injury.

We’ll see if any of the injured on either side are available for Friday night’s game at the Summerland Arena, which should be a doozy.

Joel and I will have some help in the broadcast booth, as Mike Swanson will return and put on a headset after a couple of years away. Mike spent the 2014/15 and 15-16 seasons in the broadcast booth with us, before taking last year and most of this year off.

We’ll be on for pre-game starting at 7:15pm ahead of 7:30pm puck drop from the Summerland Arena.

Steam, Heat Set to Face Off Friday 

When the Chase Heat make their second and final trip of the season to the Summerland Arena this coming Friday, expect the game to have a bit of ‘local flavour’.

Summerland native Jared Breitkreuz, 20, is expected to tend goal for the Heat in his return to the Summerland Arena Friday night. Breitkreuz, who came up through the Summerland Minor Hockey program, spent the 2016/17 season with his hometown Steam. In 10 appearances for Summerland during the 2016/17 season, Breitkreuz posted a. 9-0-1 record, a 1.84 goals against average and a .912% save percentage.
He began the 2017/18 season in Summerland before being dealt to the 100 Mile House Wranglers to pursue an opportunity to get some more playing time in an expanded role this past September. Shortly after his trade from Summerland to 100 Mile House, Breitkreuz got the call from the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials.

They needed an affiliate with one of their goaltenders on the injured list, and the Summerlander was the guy they wanted. Breitkreuz ended up spending almost a month with the Cents, making 2 appearances and picking up his first BCHL victory. He maintained a .913% save percentage in those two BCHL appearances.

After his return from the BCHL, Breitkreuz provided the Wranglers with a steady goaltending option along with Hayden Lyons. The return of veteran Jakob Severson, however, had Breitkreuz in a familiar spot. He was traded for the second time this season at the beginning of December, when he was acquired by the Chase Heat.

Since his arrival, he’s made five appearances for the Heat, posting a 3-2 record to go with a 3.15 goals against average, and .900% save percentage for a team that sits 2nd in their division.

Expect Breitkreuz to start Friday, while counterpart (and Top Prospects Game representative) Conor Webb will likely go Saturday night in Osoyoos.

In other news for the Summerland Steam, they’ve dipped into the local well for themselves yet again, signing ’99 born forward Brett Wilson.

Wilson, another product of Summerland Minor Hockey, was an affiliate player for the Steam during the 2016/17 season. He caught on with the North Okanagan Knights to start this season, playing 17 games in Armstrong before joining the Steam just prior to January 10th. Wilson, who’s twin brother Sean played alongside him in North Okanagan, is the younger brother of former Steam Forward Kendell Wilson. 

The elder Wilson, Kendell (’94) still holds the franchise record for regular season appearances by a skater with 170.

Brett comes to the Steam looking to add a little grit to the forward group. He possesses good size, moves well for how big he is, and is steady on the puck. He’ll be a guy that will get in on the forecheck and use his body to cause other teams’ defencemen a whole world of problems, which is something to look forward to. 

Wilson played his first game as a member of the Summerland Steam last Sunday in Oliver, and is expected to be available to Head Coach John Depourcq this weekend when the team hosts Chase on Friday and travels to Kelowna on Saturday night.
Puck drop on Friday goes at 7:30pm, with pre-game starting on playfullscreen.com at 7:15pm with myself and Joel Barg.  

Steam Outnumbered in Loss to Coyotes

It’s been a roller coaster of up’s and down’s in the past week for the Summerland Steam. They started the weekend early, with a Wednesday night meeting in Princeton against the hometown Posse. It was a Game similar to the last visit to Princeton, where Summerland dominated possession and zone time, but spent a lot of time shorthanded and were able to hang around.

Through 2 periods they were down 2-0, but that changed quickly as goals from Ethan Grover and Morey Babakaiff tied things at two early in the third. Both teams would battle through penalty trouble, going back and forth without converting on the power play.

It looked like Princeton was going to get their chance with 1:16 remaining, as Summerland took the final penalty of the game and were forced to kill. Blake Holowaty, however, had different ideas on how it was going to end. Holowaty forced a turnover at the Summerland blue line and took off up the right side.

He took a perfect pass from Morey Babakaiff, and went in alone on Princeton goaltender Bobby Milligan, beating him over the glove hand shoulder to put Summerland up 3-2 and ultimately seal the victory.

Summerland then sat and watched as they had Friday and Saturday off. Of course, every KIJHL team had Saturday off, as their best young players came together in Kelowna to play in the 2018 KIJHL Top Prospects Showcase. The Kootenay Conference got the better of the Okanagan Shuswap squad, which included Summerland’s Cody Swan and Luke Jirousek, by a 7-3 score.

On Sunday, Summerland got right back to work with a visit to the tiny ice in Oliver, and a meeting with the Osoyoos Coyotes. It didn’t go well for them, though it started with them opening the scoring. Cory Loring notched his 12th of the season and third in four games as a member of the Steam, to put them up 1-0 midway through the first period. 

Enter referee Dave McMann. 

I don’t normally harp on referees, because it’s a thankless job and without them, we have no game. Unfortunately, however, on Sunday afternoon we watched another game, which should have been one of the best of the year, be marred by controversy surrounding a referee being the talking point. Good referees tend to make themselves as small as possible, only chiming in when absolutely necessary, keeping a subtle, yet strong command of the happenings on the ice while enforcing the rules to the best of their abilities. 

That was not the case on Sunday afternoon. 

McMann began the game allowing the Steam and the Coyotes to wail away on one another for the first ten or so minutes, with the bare minimum being called penalties. All of a sudden, just past the ten minute mark, while under derress from both benches and both sides of the stands, the things that were going uncalled in the first ten minutes began being called. It stayed that way for the remainder of the game, and the Coyotes got caught less than Summerland did. 

Neither team was more guilty than the other. Both were physical, mean, and did some very silly things to one another, which is conducive to small ice and tight quarters. Summerland just got caught more. Simple as that. 

All afternoon on both sides of the building I heard fans pining for the 4-man system recently put in place by the VIJHL league wide. While it’s a great idea, in theory, I think it would be more prevalent to add more officiating training for current officials, before adding more demand to a refereeing system that already struggles to find officials. Games like these need 4 officials, no doubt, but if three is the only option then they surely need to be better equipped than the crew this past Sunday. 

The game that started fast, physical, and evenly played ended in a 9-3 rout for the Coyotes, thanks to 6 power play goals on 14 (!!) power play opportunities. 

Summerland wasn’t able to convert on their four chances, only one of which was a full 2 minutes. The other three came when Osoyoos took penalties while already on the power play (which they don’t do often). Summerland was undisciplined in this game, no doubt, but based on the way it was played from both sides, the penalty differential probably SHOULD have been 4, not 10.

Colin Bell and Austin Cleaver each registered hat tricks, while Seth Kreise scored twice and Hunter Johnson added the other for Osoyoos. 

Cory Loring, Sam Jones, and Bailey Tamminga’s first KIJHL goal accounted for all of Summerland’s scoring in the game.

The Steam will go back to work Friday, going head to head with the Chase Heat at the Summerland Arena. They’ll be looking to put the loss last Sunday in the rear view mirror, and get to work chasing the Coyotes for first place in the division. They now trail by four points, which can be made up pretty easily if they win their remaining two meetings with the Coyotes, both in Summerland on January 26th and February 12th.

Steam Head To Princeton Looking For 3rd Straight Victory

📸 Victoria Rich Photography 

After two wins in an extended set last weekend, the Summerland Steam will arrive in Princeton tonight looking for a third straight victory. They were able to come up with a 6-3 victory over the Princeton Posse in their last meeting, which was just last Thursday night at the SOEC in Penticton. Summerland got goals from six different goal scorers as Everett Scherger, Cairo Rogers, Scott Robinson, Liam McLaren, Cody Swan, and Cory Loring all found twine, while Bailey Tamminga chimed in with three assists and Blake Holowaty added two assists. Matt Huber made 28 saves for his 16th victory of the season, while also taking Summerland’s all-time franchise record for minutes played from his brother Brett at 5059.

Summerland then followed that up with a gritty 2-1 road victory in 100 Mile House on Saturday night, courtesy of a goal each from Loring and Swan and a 30-save performance from Huber. Loring notched his second goal in as many games since his arrival from the Grand Forks Border Bruins, and added an assist on Swan’s game winner with 11:04 remaining in the third period. Swan and Loring, childhood friends from the Williams Lake area, have formed a formidable trio with Summerland’s leading scorer, Scott Robinson, to form one of the most potent top lines in the KIJHL. In the two games since Loring’s arrival, the line has combined for nine points and controlled the majority of the play when they’re on the ice.

The Steam will be looking to start a streak when they head for Princeton on Wednesday evening, trying to keep pace with the division leading Osoyoos Coyotes who sit just two points ahead in the standings. Summerland is finally healthy, icing nearly their full lineup in 100 Mile House on Saturday night for the first time in nearly three months. 

Luke Jirousek, Ryan Allen and Everett Scherger have all returned recently from injury, while Sam Jones returned Saturday night after serving his league imposed two game suspension from prior to the holiday break. The only one they’re waiting on is Gavin Lawrie, who remains out with an upper body injury. 

Leading into January 10th, the CJHL trading deadline, Summerland has only made two moves. They brought in Cory Loring from Grand Forks, as well as goaltender Max Sidelnik. Sidelnik, from the Los Angeles, CA area, was signed on Boxing Day after being released from the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Other than those two, not much more is expected from GM Mike Rigby, Head Coach John Depourcq and his staff, who just recently got the lineup back to it’s full potential. 

Getting Scherger, Jirousek, and Allen back from long absences is almost like acquiring a ton of talent at the deadline, and they didn’t even have to make a move to do so. They do have the availability to make one or two moves, should an opportunity come available that the coaching staff and management group feel improves the team heading towards what is almost surely a clash with the Kelowna Chiefs for the fourth year in a row in the first round of the KIJHL Playoffs.

Other teams around the division have made some improvements as well. The Osoyoos Coyotes made a trade on January 9th, sending ’98 born forward Cam Welch to the VIJHL’s Victoria Cougars in exchange for ’99 born defenseman Sunil Sahota. Sahota spent the 2015/16 with the Princeton Posse as a 16-year old, before moving on to Chase and Columbia Valley in 2016/17. He then landed with the Cougars this season, and didn’t tally a point in nine games there.

He moves well, distributes the puck at a high level, and makes the Coyotes defense corps a lot more dangerous. He fills a need that a lot of people have said they thought the Coyotes were missing this season, a puck moving defender.

In year’s past we’ve seen the Coyotes boast talent like Dan Stone and Austin Steger, causing teams a lot of problems jumping into plays to create offense. Sahota will fill that need to a degree, and perhaps if he plays his 19 and 20-year old year’s he may turn into that player, but for now he’s a good puck mover and skater who will jump in and help the Coyotes in a big way.

The Kelowna Chiefs also made moves, acquiring the playing rights to ’97 born goaltender Joe McLeod, formerly of the Castlegar Rebels. McLeod, who spent 2015/16 with the Rebels and posted a 2.25 Goals Against Average and .934% Save percentage in 21 appearances, has been in Junior A ever since. He made 11 appearances at the end of 2015/16 for the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL, before catching on with the AJHL’s Drayton Valley Thunder to start 2016/17. As far as Junior B goes McLeod is an elite level talent, and shores up a position the Chiefs have struggled with all season long. He’s made three starts since his acquisition, and picked up three wins.

The Chiefs also got a big boost up front with the return of ’99 born forward Brody Dale. Dale, who left in the middle of last season to join the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL, started this season with the Chiefs, tallying six goals and seven assists in seven games played. He then took an opportunity to go out east to join his older brother Brayden with the OCN Blizzard in the MJHL, putting up eight goals and 16 points in 25 apperances.

It’s not all roses for the Chiefs, as they did have one player leave heading towards the deadline. That player is Jarin Suttion, their power play quarterback and most mobile and dynamic defender. His mobility and flare for offense has landed him a full time spot with the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies. Congratulations to Jarin on his accomplishment and drive to get to the next level.

For the Summerland Steam, their focus will likely not be on any further moves as the deadline passes today. If a move makes sense it will likely involve adding some depth, and perhaps a little ‘sandpaper’, if you will, to their current forward group. 

They’ve got a stretch drive to think about where they’ll spend a lot of time on the road. Only five home games remain, which means they’re on the road nine more times including tonight’s contest in Princeton.

The Posse have proven themselves a formidable opponent this year, playing Summerland and all other teams tough every single night. They’re getting good goaltending from the tandem of Bobby Milligan and Danyon Lorencz, they don’t take a shift off, and they capitalize on their opportunities.

They currently sit 4th in the division, on a collision course with the Osoyoos Coyotes in the first round of the KIJHL Playoffs should the standings remain the same as they stand today. They’ve played Summerland to just a 1-4-1-0 record this season, but all the games in the season series have been close, tight checking, and physical. The Posse thrive on home ice, because they’re built for it. It’s a small building, small ice surface, and generally a fairly good crowd making a lot of noise for their hometown team. It’s not an easy place to play, the Princeton and District Arena, and Summerland will need to find a way to come up with two points if they want to keep pace with an Osoyoos Coyotes team who is beginning to look less and less beatable as the season continues.

Puck drop tonight from the Princeton & District Arena goes at 7PM. For Summerland fans, based on the weather report I’d recommend not making that drive, but catching the broadcast on Playfullscreen.com with George Elliot instead.

Steam Acquire Loring From Grand Forks 

The Summerland Steam Junior Hockey Club announced Thursday the acquisition of ’99 born forward Cory Loring from the Grand Forks Border Bruins. The trade is not the first this season for Loring, who was traded by the Chase Heat to the Border Bruins in December in exchange for Brady Marzocco.

📸 KIJHL.ca

Loring, an 18-year old forward from Williams Lake, BC, joins Summerland with 66 games of KIJHL experience under his belt, split between the Castlegar Rebels, Chase Heat and Grand Forks Border Bruins over the past two seasons. This season, he’s amassed 9 goals and 29 points on 34 games, including three points in four games with the Border Bruins since his acquisition in early December.

Regarding the acquisition of Cory Loring, Steam GM Mike Rigby had this to say:

“Cory will bring a lot to our hockey club. He competes hard, he’s a big body that we feel will mesh well with our forward group, and he’ll provide a little ‘bite’ if you will to our forecheck. We look forward to having him, though we had to give up a very good hockey player to get him.”

That very good hockey player that Rigby speaks of is Riley Smoler, who moves to the Kootenay Conference and the Neil Murdoch Division’s 4th place Border Bruins. He’ll join a Border Bruins team who battles with the Spokane Braves for the final playoff spot in the division, and likely has the task of staring down the league leading Castlegar Rebels in the first round of the KIJHL Playoffs. The Rebels have won fourteen games in a row, propelling them to first place in the division and the conference, based in win percentage.

📸 Victoria Rich Photography

Smoler, an 18-year old from Whitehorse, YT, has 10 goals and 25 points in his Rookie season in the KIJHL. He has a nose for the net and a knack for having the puck on his stick, and should help the Border Bruins in the offensive department.

“We’re sad to see Riley go,” Said Rigby, “He’s a great hockey player with a lot of talent, and we wish him all the best as he moves on to Grand Forks. On behalf of the Summerland Steam organization, we’d like to thank Riley for his time and efforts both on the ice and in the community over the past several months.”

Loring will wear number 11 upon his arrival in Summerland, and should be ready for action when the team hosts the Princeton Posse at the SOEC in Penticton on Thursday night.

Swan, Jirousek To Represent Steam at Top Prospects Showcase

For the second straight year, the KIJHL will host a Top Prospects Showcase. Hosted by the Kelowna Chiefs and the Rutland Arena, the Top Prospects game will feature the best players in the league aged 16-18 in the form of the Kootenay Conference squaring off against the Okanagan Shuswap Conference.

The KIJHL announced the rosters for the game, to be played January 13th at 2PM at Rutland Arena (West), on Tuesday and the Summerland Steam will send two representatives. Those two representatives are 18-year old Cody Swan and 17-year old Lukas Jirousek.

 

Luke Jirousek

Jirousek, out injured since November 17th with an undisclosed injury, is said to be close to return and will hopefully be ready to play in the Showcase on January 13th. The 17-year old from Whitehorse, YT has played just 18 of Summerland’s 31 games to date, and has put up nine goals and 15 points in those contests. He uses his big body and heavy shot to create opportunities for himself and offense for his team, and that’s been missed by the Summerland Steam while he’s been out with injury.

cody_swan-crop

Swan, meanwhile, has been the model of consistency for a Summerland Steam hockey club that’s lost A LOT of man games due to injury this season. The 18-year old from 150 Mile House, BC has played all 31 of Summerland’s games thus far, amassing 15 goals and 41 points to sit 2nd in team scoring. He’s done that while also only accumulating eight penalty minutes, and playing in all key situations for Head Coach John Depourcq and his staff.

Jirousek and Swan will join Team Okanagan/Shuswap as they take on Team Kootenay. The rosters were released yesterday, and there’s some pretty top-end talent throughout both lineups, as you’ll see.

 

20180103_071124

20180103_071225.png

Not a lot can be said for the Kootenay Conference roster, as they don’t travel to play the Okanagan Conference at all during the 2017/18 KIJHL season due to the elimination of the crossover schedule. The Okanagan Conference roster, however, proves that players aged 16-18 are impact players for their club teams and make up a large percentage of the top tier talent in the KIJHL. A lot of the forwards that make up Team Okanagan are in the top 5 in scoring on their respective teams, while the defensemen play big minutes, quarterback power plays, and are trusted by their coaches to play in big situations. It will be great to see them go up against talent that they don’t often see from the Kootenay Conference of the KIJHL.

The KIJHL Top Prospects Showcase takes place January 13th at Rutland Arena in Kelowna, BC. Myself along with Justin McCartney, the Voice of the Kelowna Chiefs, will have all the action on Playfullscreen.com.