Breitkreuz Comes Home for 20-Year Old Season

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The Summerland Steam are pleased to announce the re-acquisition of the playing rights of 20-year old local goaltender Jared Breitkreuz from the Chase Heat in exchange for Future Considerations.

Breitkreuz, a member of the Summerland Steam during the 2016/17 season, was traded to 100 Mile House early in the 2017/18 season to pursue an opportunity for more playing time. The Summerland native spent his 18-year old season (2016/17) with his hometown Steam amassing a 9-0-1-0 record in 10 starts while maintaining a .912% save percentage with two shutouts.

With then 20-year old goaltender Matt Huber returning to assume the starting role again in 17/18, Breitkreuz began the season as Summerland’s backup. He soon saw an opportunity for more playing time, however, when Wranglers Head Coach Dale Hladun came calling to fill a need, with Breitkreuz at the top of his list.

“100 Mile called looking for a #1 goaltender and specifically asked about Jared’s availability, and with that opportunity in mind for his growth we could not say no,” Said Steam GM Mike Rigby at the time of the trade, “Jared has shown that he has the potential to excel at this level and as hard as it is to say goodbye to a person and player of Jared’s quality and character, it will be good for his development. Both on the ice and off the ice it will be a new experience for him, and it will be great for him to get more playing time in front of great fans like they have in 100 Mile House.”

He only played nine games with the Wranglers,  posting 5 wins, 3 losses and a tie while posting one shutout and a .904% save percentage. The low number of appearances for the Wranglers was due to a call-up to the BCHL, where Breitkreuz spent nearly a month helping out in the crease of the Merritt Centennials. He only saw game action twice, picking up his first BCHL victory and posting a .911% save percentage in his two appearances.

Upon return to the KIJHL, Breitkreuz found himself in a crowded Wranglers’ crease after the return of veteran goaltender Jakob Severson. Breitkreuz was dealt from the Wranglers to the Chase Heat, where he played out the remainder of the season and playoffs splitting games with goaltending partner Conor Webb. In 11 regular season appearances, Breitkreuz put together a 3-6 record and 3.62 goals against average, but maintained a save percentage above .900% while facing quality competition every single night.

“I had a great experience with all three teams I played for,” Breitkreuz said, “I can’t say enough great things about Coach Hladun in 100 Mile, Coach Fox in Chase and Coach Joe Martin in Merritt. They’re all first-class individuals.”

The experience in the BCHL is something not many goaltenders from the KIJHL get to experience, and Breitkreuz spent a full month in Merritt while they had a pair of goaltenders on the shelf due to injury.

“It’s definitely a step up,” says Breitkreuz of his time with the Centennials, “Even though it was just for a short time, the talent level is so high and the commitment level of the guys who play at that level can teach you a thing or two about the way you prepare on a day by day basis.”

He added that he’d also like to thank the billet families he stayed with during his stops in all three cities during 2017/18 for being so welcoming and receptive to having him in their homes. After the carousel of teams in two different leagues last season, he says he’s happy to be back home in Summerland for his 20-year old year:

“I’m extremely happy to be back playing in Summerland and playing at home for my last year of junior hockey. I’m looking forward to the season, enjoying my last year with quality teammates and people in this organization, and being the best goaltender and teammate I can be. I enjoyed my time away, but I definitely missed the home cooked meals, for sure.”

Breitkreuz joins Everett Scherger, recently named captain of the 2018/19 Summerland Steam, as the only two committed twenty year olds leading into main camp in August. The Steam will likely be a young hockey team again in 2018/19 but Breitkreuz, like Scherger, doesn’t think they’re far away from contending for a KIJHL championship.

“I think with the group that Coach Depourcq and GM Mike Rigby will be able to put together with returning players and new recruits, and with the leadership and experience that Schergs (Everett Scherger) brings as captain, we’ll be more than capable of bringing a Championship to Summerland.”

Summerland Steam Main Camp goes August 25th & 26th at the Summerland Arena, with exhibition games slated for later that week ahead of the KIJHL season opening on September 7th. Look for the Steam out in the community, as they’ll be at various community events all summer long. If you go as far as to introduce yourself, you might even score some free tickets!

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Scherger Tapped as Next Steam Captain

Photo: Emanuel Sequira

The Summerland Steam have named their new captain for the 2018/19 KIJHL Season. Devon, AB native Everett Scherger, in his third season with the Summerland Steam, will wear the ‘C’ for Head Coach John Depourcq when the Steam hit the ice this coming September.

“We feel he’s the right guy to wear it because of the type of player and person he is,” Said Depourcq on his choice to captain his squad, “He’s a remarkable young man and a very talented hockey player who’s will to compete makes those around him better. The kid loves hockey, plain and simple, and it rubs off on his teammates and those around him. We couldn’t be happier to have him lead our team both on the ice and into the community to start the 2018/19 season.”

Photo: Emanuel Sequira

Scherger, a KIJHL veteran of 74 regular season and playoff games over the past two seasons, missed significant time due to injury during the 2017/18 season. He amassed 9 goals and 22 points last season while missing a month from November 21 to December 29 and again from late January through early March. Scherger found himself unable to play much during the 2017 KIJHL Playoffs, but wound up on the bench and playing limited shifts during Games 5, 6, and 7 of that first round series while at much less than 100%.

“It speaks to the type of person and player he is,” Coach Depourcq said, “He’s the ultimate team guy, who will do anything for his teammates if it makes the group better.

We wanted his presence in our lineup, even if it was just his voice on the bench. Our team was going through a bit of a difficult time with our backs against the wall against a really good team, and even though he didn’t see much ice due to his injury he was a big part of those wins in Games 5 & 6 that allowed us to play a Game 7.”

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Photo: Victoria Rich

Scherger, who turned 20 on May 7th, is excited for the opportunity to carry on from great captains before him like Alex Williams and Sam Jones:

“They set great examples to follow,” Scherger said in conversation with Steam beat reporter Emanuel Sequira, “Not just for us right now, but you talk about them and they become great examples for future players as well.”

Scherger has firmly relocated to Summerland for the summer, continuing to live with his billet family, the Tutkaluk’s, while also working in the plumbing trade. He plans to be on the ice as much as possible to build his conditioning and strength headed into his final season of junior hockey.

He learned of Coach John Depourcq’s decision to make him captain during his exit meeting at the end of the 2017/18 season, and was immediately energized.

“I was really excited,” He said, “Just being around the room and all those guys, we’ve got a great group. Not only that but we’ve got a great coaching staff, a great fan base and a good community supporting us. That’s the kind of thing that gets you excited as a player.”

When asked about what it will be like to trade his familiar ‘A’ for a ‘C’ this coming September, Scherger had high praise for his coaches and teammates for helping him push hard to achieve it:

“They were the ones that helped get me here,” He said, “They pushed me, they played me in all sorts of situations because they had faith in my ability, and they help bring everybody together. It’s very helpful as a leader in the locker room when your coaching staff not only believes in you, but helps you unify a group of 20 or 25 guys to strive for a common goal.”

That goal, Scherger says, is to bring a KIJHL Championship to Summerland.

“I want to be remembered as a guy who loved to be at the rink, and loved to win hockey games,” Scherger said, “I want to be that guy that lives and dies inside the glass and does anything for the team, and if I can help get guys on board with that strategy, we’re going to be a real tough hockey team to compete against. If we get on board with that strategy and never take a shift off, we’re going to compete for a championship, no doubt.”

The Steam, who finished third in the Okanagan Division last season, will be in tough once again as the Kelowna Chiefs and Osoyoos Coyotes will be as tough as ever to play against. Former Head Coach of the Osoyoos Coyotes, Ken Law, has taken over as the Head Coach and Assistant GM of the Kelowna Chiefs, and is sure to make them an even tougher team to play against than the team that took the Steam out of the KIJHL playoffs in Game 7 of Round 1 last year.

“It fuels the fire, that’s for sure,” Said new captain Everett Scherger of the Game 7 loss, “Inside this division is real tough, physical, borderline mean hockey to play, and we had a real good year last year. To go out in Round 1 with the team we had, who we thought could make a deep run and potentially battle for a championship, it was tough. We’re going to do what we can to make sure we don’t feel that again this year.”

Summerland, as per tradition, will likely open the KIJHL schedule on the second Friday of September (This year September 7th) on home ice, but that won’t be the first opportunity to see Everett Scherger with his new ‘C’. He, along with several other Steam players, will take part in the 36th Annual Summerland Action Festival parade on Saturday at 10AM on Main St. in downtown Summerland. Head down there, find them, and you might even score yourself some free tickets!

Huber Commits to BCIHL’s Mariners

📸 : Steve Dunsmoor – Dunsmoor Creative / Kelowna Chiefs

The Summerland Steam are pleased to announce that veteran goaltender Matt Huber (20) has committed to Vancouver Island University for the 2018/19 season. Huber, the Steam’s all time leader in all major goaltending categories, will join the VIU Mariners to start the 2018/19 season after three successful seasons with the Summerland Steam.

“I enjoyed the past three seasons that I spent with the Summerland Steam,” Huber said in an interview with Steam web correspondent Emanuel Sequira, “Getting the opportunity to play and be a part of the Summerland Steam organization, as well as the community, was an absolute blast.”

Huber left the gates ‘guns blazing’ in his rookie season with the Steam, posting a franchise record 7 shutouts on route to 18 wins in 30 starts. He says it only got better from there.

“Being able to meet new teammates and making buddies that will last a lifetime while having Coach Depourcq and his staff there to assist in pulling everyone and everything together was a big deal and a huge asset for us players,” Huber added, “John is one of those guys that makes everybody around him better, not only as hockey players but as human beings.”

Huber leaves behind a team and an organization that for the first time since it’s inaugural season won’t have the name ‘Huber’ on the back of a goalie jersey in 2018/19.

Matt, of course, followed his brother Brett to Summerland after Brett spent three seasons of his own as a member of the Summerland Steam. Brett also took the BCIHL path, spending the past three seasons with the Selkirk Saints.

The KIJHL, says the younger Huber, is a fantastic spring board into the collegiate levels:

“Making the jump to college hockey from junior will be a different, but enjoyable atmosphere. With the next level comes stronger and more developed players which offers a challenge that I’m willing to accept and run with.

Playing with the Steam and in the KIJHL contributed heavily in helping me achieve this opportunity as my skills, maturity and confidence have been much further developed over the last three seasons.

Ultimately I feel ready and confident to tackle the challenge that college hockey offers”

A new program last year, the VIU program has gone heavy on recruitment from BC’s three Junior B leagues, and boasts at least 8 KIJHL alumni by quick count.

Huber will join former rival Brett Witala, the captain of the Kelowna Chiefs in 2017/18, who also committed to VIU during last season’s KIJHL playoffs. They’ll both be expected to be key cogs in the machine of a program just getting it’s footing in the BCIHL, going 17-8 and finishing third in the six team circuit.

While getting settled playing hockey in 2018/19, Huber will begin studies in the field of Fisheries & Aquaculture, a field of interest for him for many years.

“”I plan on studying fisheries and aquaculture. I like being outdoors, and love fly fishing. I enjoy furthering my education on fish culture and invertebrate. As a kid I’ve always been fascinated with biology and the whole ecosystem that oceans, rivers and lakes have to offer.”

Huber, a native of Calgary, Alberta, chose the island over several US Schools in the ACHA and NCAA Divsion III, simply to stay closer to home, receive education and play hockey in his home country.

“I received offers to play in the States and each school that reached out to me did offer great programs for school and hockey,” Says Huber, “I ended up choosing Vancouver Island University (VIU) because I wanted to go to school and play hockey in Canada. The VIU Mariners also had a great season in their inaugural year and it looked like things were only going uphill from there. I was fortunate enough to tour the VIU campus and arena and furthermore learned about all the good things the school has to offer.”

Huber will set out on a new journey in a new city in 2018/19, something he hasn’t had to do since his arrival in Summerland in September 2015. He had this to say when it comes to moving on from the Summerland Steam to a new adventure:

“I’d like to thank the entire Summerland Steam organization including the coaching staff, billets, volunteers, all the steammates, LFH gym, and everyone involved in helping me reach the next level. Thanks to everyone for helping develop and better my skills on and off the ice and further assisting me in reaching this opportunity to play college hockey.

The last three years of playing Steam hockey have been a pleasure and I would recommend the program to anyone looking for a great junior hockey experience.”

Congratulations to Matt Huber on his commitment to Vancouver Island University for 2018/19!

Robinson Commits to UNC For 2018/19

The Summerland Steam Junior Hockey Club is pleased to announce that last year’s leading scorer, Scott Robinson, has committed to the Northern Colorado Bears for 2018/19.

The Bears play ACHA Division II hockey, and are coming off back-to-back Big Mountain Conference Championships in 2016/17 and 2017/18. They finished the 2017-18 season with a record of 23W-9L-1-1 record, finishing 3rd in the West Division and 17th nationally.

Their Head Coach, Kelly Newton, is from the Okanagan and was able to get a pretty good idea of what Robinson has to offer over the last couple of seasons.

“Scott is a huge addition for this program”, He said, “His ability to play forward or defense gives us a lot of options, both in 5v5 and specialty situations such as the power play and 4v4. I watched Scott play multiple times this season, he is a power forward that can bury the puck when he has the opportunity.”

Robinson, a veteran of over 200 KIJHL games including regular season and playoffs, takes the next step in both hockey and education with his commitment to Northern Colorado. He excelled last season in the KIJHL, notching 24 goals and 61 points during the regular season, leading the Steam to a 3rd place finish in the Okanagan Division. Robinson was instrumental in the playoffs as well, and was without a doubt Summerland’s best forward in their 7-game first round series with the Kelowna Chiefs.

In total, Robinson’s KIJHL career saw him play 214 games including regular season and playoffs, tallying 51 goals and 75 assists for 126 points during that time. He spent time with the Osoyoos Coyotes and the Sicamous Eagles, but the bulk of his time and success came in the white, red and black of the Summerland Steam over three seasons.

“It’s been fun,” Said Robinson of his time as a member of the Summerland Steam, “I’d like to say thank you to Coach Depourcq for the past three seasons. He’s the reason juniors have been so much fun for me.”

The 6′ 7″, 240 pound native of Nottingham, England made the conversion from defender to offensive threat in 2017/18, and it paid off with the best year of his junior hockey career. He played dependable minutes in all situations for Head Coach John Depourcq and the Summerland Steam, and was a good teammate and leader throughout.

“We’re very proud of Robo,” Said Depourcq on Robinson’s commitment, “He’s a talented hockey player and a good kid, and we’re happy he’s found an opportunity to continue both his education and hockey career. We, as an organization, wish him all the best as he enters his future with Kelly Newton and the UNC Bears.”

Robinson will join a strong contingent of KIJHL talent who have taken their talents to the ACHA over the years. The ACHA’s Division II Jamestown Jimmies have more than 10 KIJHL alumni on their roster, while others are spread all throughout the ACHA in Division I, II, and III. The University of Northern Colorado is familiar with recruiting from the KIJHL, and have boasted many alumni including former Osoyoos Coyotes Captain Colin Chmelka, who was the Captain of the UNC Men’s Hockey program last season.

The Summerland Steam wish Scott Robinson all the best in his future, and congratulate him on his commitment to the Northern Colorado Bears! All the best, Robo!

Steam Earn Split, Home Ice Advantage in First Two Against Chiefs

They did what they had to do.

Being the lower seed for the first time since 2012/13, the Summerland Steam knew if they were going to win this series against the explosive Kelowna Chiefs, they were going to have to win at least a game at Rutland Arena. Both coaches lamented before this series that home ice advantage didn’t much matter between these two teams, but it could be a big bonus for Summerland to get the thing they HAD to do out of the way early.

They didn’t wait long, as Scott Robinson netted a pair of goals in Game 1 to lead his team to a 5-4 victory and a 1-0 series lead. Blake Holowaty, Morey Babakaiff, and Liam McLaren each scored in the contest as well, while Matt Huber made 27 saves to pick up the victory.

Robinson’s second of the game would stand as the winner, as he was sprung on a breakaway and made no mistake with 3:29 to play in the third period. The goal put the Steam up 5-3 late, and the Chiefs were only able to come halfway back.

Brody Dale scored twice for the Chiefs in Game 1, while Zach Erhardt and Devin Sutton each tallied a goal.

The same culprits would be at it for the Chiefs in Game 2, and this time they came out on the right side of a 5-4 score. Sutton scored a power play goal with a shade over five minutes remaining that would stand as the winner, while Dale, Erhardt, Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise and Rhys Colpron also scored for the home side.

Luke Jirousek tallied a pair of power play goals for the Steam, while Sam Jones (also on the power play) and Noah Kallichuk each added singles in a losing effort.

Would Summerland have loved to win Game 2? You’d be silly to think they wouldn’t have, and they just about did, but they’ll be happy to come home with a split and control their own destiny. All they have to do is defend home ice, and the series can’t be lost.

The Steam did a great job in the first two games of neutralizing the Chiefs’ biggest weapon, which is their speed. Summerland was able to effectively use the boards to clear pucks, and get in on the forecheck to cause the Chiefs some problems, and that’ll have to continue if they want to get results.

One thing that will for sure need a little work on the Summerland end will be defending the Chiefs potent power play, which went 3-for-11 in the first two games of the series. While not an overwhelming percentage of the Chiefs 9 goals have come on the power play, a little more resiliency on the penalty kill for Summerland probably wins them Game 2 and has them coming home up 2-0 in the series.

The Chiefs scored twice on the power play in Game 2, both in the third period to tie the game at 4 and take the lead that would hold until the final buzzer. They also tallied one in the second period that came right at the end of a Summerland penalty kill, which could also be considered a PPG.

The Chiefs first power play unit boasts their five best players, and they’re all forwards. Brody Dale and Brett Witala man the points, while Devin Sutton, Zach Erhardt, and Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise patrol the lower portion of the zone. Option A is almost always Brody Dale at the left point, and option B is often Devin Sutton for a one-timer somewhere in the middle of the zone.

The problem with trying to defend solely those plays is that all five players are so talented, that if you leave one open to defend another there’s a good chance you’ll have to fish the puck from the back of the net anyway. The best policy for the Summerland Steam is obviously to stay out of the penalty box, but when they have to take one they just need to make the simple plays, keep their defensive structure, and be willing to buy in and block shots.

For the most part they’ve done a great job of it. They just need to be that little bit sharper, and they’ll be in this series until the bitter end. On the other side of the special teams coin the Steam have been good on the power play, collecting four goals on 17 opportunities through two games. They’ve done well to open up shooting lanes and get traffic to the slot, which has to continue if they want to beat a goaltender like Kelowna’s Joe McLeod.

Game 3 goes tonight, 7:30pm from the Summerland Arena. Joel and I will have pre-game starting at 7:15pm on PlayFullScreen.com. Game 4, same times, same place on Tuesday night.

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

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.