By the time the Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs take the ice at the Summerland Arena on Friday night, it’ll have been 237 days since they paid any mind to one another. The two played an exhibition contest early in the year, but that really isn’t a reflection on the rivalry between them. The last time the two teams squared off in a meaningful game was Game 7 of the first round of the KIJHL playoffs on February 28. After a hard fought seven game series, Summerland moved on with a 2-1 win in Game 7 thanks to two goals from Jack Mills.

Fast forward through those 237 days and we sit at Friday night, when the Steam host the Chiefs in the first of eight meetings this season. The two teams have started the 2015/16 KIJHL season in very similar fashion, sitting 2nd and 3rd respectively, and separated by just 2 points (though Kelowna has a game in hand). The numbers for the two teams, nearly identical, would tell you that we’re in for a very close pair of games between the two this weekend. Kelowna will have the edge in goaltending with a team goals against average that sits 6th in the KIJHL heading into the weekend, while Summerland will have the edge in offense with the 6th ranked offense in the KIJHL.

Summerland has had no trouble scoring goals so far this season, but they’ve had some struggles preventing them at times. That’ll have to be taken care of tonight as Kelowna doesn’t give up much in the way of goals against, just 2.33 per game. The goaltending combination of Brady Lenardon and Josh Tetlichi, who spent training camp with the Steam, have been superb for Head Coach Jason Tansem so far this season. It’s only a matter of time before their offense kicks in and starts scoring some goals for them.

With the likes of Josh Kobelka, Ryan Lawson, and Jonathan Lee returning coupled with new guys Jaden McNulty, Tyler Love and the Dale brothers (Brayden & 16 yr old Brody), It’s GOING to happen. The 2.92 clip that Kelowna is scoring at so far this season is something that Summerland has to pay no attention to, because the talent is there and seems like the visitors could explode for an outburst at any moment.

Summerland’s #1 goal in these two games this weekend should be their own defensive zone. If they can contain their own zone like they did on Sunday against Princeton, they’ll be successful. They’ve been scoring goals at a solid pace this season, averaging 3.67 GPG, and that starts in their own zone. The first pass is the key for the Steam, and if they can make a solid first pass and break out of their own zone cleanly they’ll have success.

Kelowna has arguably the top defenseman in the division in 20 year old veteran Kevin Roth, as well as veterans Josh Johnston and Josh Baird back there, so scoring will not be as easy as it sounds. Summerland will need to use the rush to their advantage off their defensive zone breakout, as well as establish a forecheck early in the game to get the Kelowna D turned around and chasing the puck. I’d expect tonight’s game to be tight, physical, and a whole lot of fun no matter who you are.

You’ll see familiar faces in both lineups, as Kelowna’s returned 10 players from last season while Summerland’s returned a total of 13. These players are certainly familiar with each other, and there is definitely no love lost. It’ll be interesting to see who sets the tone early in tonight’s game, as both teams will certainly want to.

Kelowna is coming off mixed results in their last 2 games, drawing both by scores of 1-1 (Revelstoke) on October 16, and 3-3 (Castlegar) on October 18. Summerland, meanwhile, is also coming off mixed results last weekend. They lost 2-1 in Kamloops on Friday night before laying the smack down on Princeton on Sunday by a score of 8-0 in a game they allowed Matt Huber to see just 12 shots.

The second of the eight meetings will be played Saturday night at the Rutland Arena as the back end of a home and home this weekend. Puck drop on Friday night is 7:30 in Summerland, and the game is presented by IGA Summerland. They’ll be on hand with giveaways, contests and prizes to give away. Tickets can be picked up at the door for $10 for adults and $8 for students (7-17) and seniors. Children 6&under are FREE when accompanied by an adult.

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