After starting the week on a sour note in Osoyoos on Wednesday, the Summerland Steam will look to snap a 3 game losing streak when they visit the Doug Birks Division leading Kamloops Storm on Friday night. It will be Summerland’s one and only visit to McArthur Park this season, with the return matchup taking place December 11th in Summerland. Historically, Summerland has had minimal success against the Kamloops Storm. In 8 games between the two teams in Summerland Steam history, they carry a 3-4-0-1 record into Kamloops on Friday night with a -2 goals against differential. This would tell me that throughout the past 4 seasons the matchups have been fairly close, and I would expect no different when the two teams take the ice tonight.
Kamloops is off to a hot start. The 2014/15 Okanagan/Shuswap Conference Champions had quite the turnover rate to start the 2015/16 KIJHL season having very few returnees from their championship team last season. Head Coach Ed Patterson and his staff, along with GM Barry Dewar, do a great job every season of scouting and signing quality players, making the Storm a perennial powerhouse in the Doug Birks Division and the KIJHL. They’re always near the top of the standings, and this season is no different. Led by youngsters Robb Johnson (5+8=13pts) and Dario Piva (5g+8a=13pts), both born in 1998, the Storm are at the top of the Doug Birks Division with a 5 point cushion over the 2nd place Chase Heat just 12 games into the KIJHL Season.
Looking at the roster for Kamloops, it really is quite remarkable that they are where they are. Not only are they the top of the division in the Shuswap, but they’ve only got 1 player born in 1995 (20 year old) and 2 born in 1996. The rest are born in 1997 or later, including 15 year old Ryan Chyzowski, who is a player born in May of 2000 and doesn’t turn 16 until May 5 and recorded his first point (a goal) in his first KIJHL game on October 9.
By the numbers, which you can find HERE, the Summerland Steam and the Kamloops Storm match up well. The difference may well come down to goaltending, an area where Kamloops excels and Summerland has struggled of late. As you can see by that stat graph, Kamloops rides the goaltending of two ’98 born goaltenders, Tavin Grant and Spencer Eschyschyn, to the 4th best goals against average in the league. By the looks of those stats Kamloops isn’t going to set the inside of the net on fire by any means, but with a 2.17 team goals against average, they’re going to win a lot of games. When all you need to do is score 3 goals to win, life gets made pretty easy, and that’s where Kamloops is at right now.
Summerland, on the other hand, is having no problem scoring goals or carrying great possession numbers. Over the past 4 games their only negative possession numbers have come in the 2nd and 3rd periods of Wednesday night’s 7-2 loss to the Coyotes. Summerland’s struggle at the particular moment is in their defensive zone, and after watching practice last night I can tell you their working at it. A middling team goals against average (3.45 GA per game, 12th in the league) is no reflection of the goaltending Summerland has been getting from Matthew Huber and Austin Wells. That goals against average is a direct reflection of Summerland’s defensive zone play, which has been less than stellar of late. They’ve been working on their zone exits in practice, and if they can get out of their defensive zone cleanly and limit their turnovers, they’re going to be just fine.
Their offense is clicking at a solid clip with Jack Mills and Paulsen Lautard leading the way in the points category. I’d argue that the most important line though is Riley Pettitt’s line. No matter who the coaching staff puts on either side of Pettitt, they seem to drive offensive zone time and draw the toughest matchup from other teams. This gives Mills, Lautard et all the opportunity to put up points without having the toughest defensive matchup, and Pettitt’s line still puts up their fair share of points despite an always tough defensive matchup.
Some good news for the Summerland Steam is they’ll have their leading scorer in the lineup on Friday night. After taking a hit from behind from Osoyoos Coyotes’ Forward Hunter Johnston on Wednesday night, Steam forward Jack Mills was off to the hospital to get stitched up. It took 17 stitches to close about an inch long gash above his right eye, but he says he’s “good to go” and will be in the lineup on Friday night in Kamloops.
The Steam will be without forwards Braden Eliuk (shoulder), Andrew York (Shoulder), and Michael McLean (Concussion), as per team GM Gregg Wilson. You can also expect to see young AP goaltender Nathan Spark backup Matthew Huber again tonight, as Austin Wells won’t be in the lineup. Unless something’s changed since practice last night, expect Matt Huber to get the nod between the pipes for the Steam.
Puck drop is 7PM from McArthur Park, and make sure you tune in to the Kamloops broadcast on PlayFullScreen, as in the past it’s been one of the best in the KIJHL.