After a good first month of the 2015/16 KIJHL season, the month of October hasn’t been necessarily kind to the Summerland Steam. The team has gone 3-7 in 10 games to date during the 10th month of 2015, and will look to end the month on a high note with a Halloween clash against the Princeton Posse on Saturday night.
Right now the Summerland Steam sit firmly in third place in the KIJHL’s Okanagan Division, 2 points back of the Kelowna Chiefs and 7 points behind the division leading Osoyoos Coyotes.
If you’re new to the Summerland Steam and to this blog this season, DON’T FRET. Summerland has had notoriously unsuccessful October’s in each of their first 4 KIJHL Seasons. As a matter of fact, the best a Summerland Steam squad has been able to do in the month of October was a .500% win percentage last season, going 5-5. In 2013/14, the Steam went 2-6 in October and sat in last place before collecting points in 33 of their remaining 36 games to win the Okanagan Division crown.
It is not abnormal for the Summerland Steam to struggle in the second month of the schedule, and not much should be read into it. Yes, they’re 3-7 to date for the month, but only one of those losses has been by more than 2 goals. They’re in every game they play, and that’s encouraging. Their possession numbers are good, their offense is potent, and they’re beginning to come together as a group. In talking to Head Coach John Depourcq, Assistants Jordan McCallum and Wade Parker, and GM Gregg Wilson, I can tell you that they’re aware, and they aren’t worried. They LOVE their group of kids, and continue to preach that if they take care of their D zone and limit their turnovers, they’ll have success.
Against Kelowna last weekend, it was two short lapses in the defensive zone that led to quick pairs of goals by the Chiefs. Those quick pairs of opportunities that were converted by the Chiefs offense was all they needed to slip past the Steam by 2-1 and 3-2 scores on Friday and Saturday respectively.
The first, Friday night at home, was two instances that Summerland was stopped in the neutral zone. The first goal, by Jaden McNulty, was a beauty solo effort off a turnover in the neutral zone. The other, a re-direction from Jace Woodley, was a failed clearing attempt at the defensive blue line that ended up behind Steam goaltender Jake Mullen.
Both instances are avoidable, and if the Steam can begin to eliminate their turnovers on their side of center, they’ll be just fine. “60 minutes” is something you hear from Head Coach John Depourcq just about every night on our home broadcast, and the past two games have been proof that even if you take 2 or 3 minutes off, it can cost you.
On Saturday night it was two quick goals at the beginning of the 2nd period that undid the Steam and put them in a hole they couldn’t climb out of. They tried, but couldn’t beat Brady Lenardon, who is the 2nd best goaltender in the KIJHL with a 1.71 GAA and .931 GAA. Those numbers are sparkling, and he proved over the two game mini-series last weekend that they’re no fluke.
Any other year those numbers are #1 with a bullet.He’s 2nd, only because Kimberley goaltender Tyson Brouwer is clearly not human. Numbers, I’m sure, are partially due to the quality of the team in front of him, but he’s posted an otherworldly slash line with a 1.41 GAA / .950 sv% & 4 shutouts so far in 12 starts.
As for Summerland, after a good week of practice, the Steam turn their attention to the Princeton Posse on Saturday night. They’ll be looking to get back on track and back in the win column before a home date with the Nelson Leafs on Sunday afternoon.
In their last meeting with the Posse two Sunday’s ago, the Steam came away with a slump-busting 8-0 win. In that game, they took advantage of a dogged Princeton team who was playing their 3rd game in 2 1/2 days, and only sent 12 shots in the direction of Summerland goaltender Matthew Huber. It was Summerland’s chance to bust out of a
CAUTION: You won’t see that Princeton team on Saturday night. Guaranteed.
Princeton is a team that works very, very hard each and every night and is tenacious when playing in their own building on a small ice surface. They’re a hard working, blue collar team led by the likes of Drew Carter, Thomas Cankovic and 16 year old defenseman Sunil Sahota.
Carter, who previously played for Head Coach and GM Geoff Goodman last season in Osoyoos before being traded to Nelson, is the Posse’s leading scorer with 13 points through 16 games played. The real leader though is captain Cody Lassiter. Lassiter plays the type of hard working, blue collar, ‘work ’til the bell tolls’ type of game that has become synonymous with the Princeton Posse organization, and it rubs off on his teammates.
They sit in 4th place in the Okangan Division at the moment, but don’t expect them to stay there too long. They seem to improve every time I see them play or watch video of their games, and they give teams a good game every time they step on the ice. Their goaltending is far better than the numbers suggest, and can steal a game from any team at any point, so Summerland will definitely have to take care of their own zone and capitalize on their opportunities.
Puck drop goes at 7PM on Saturday night at the OK Corral in Princeton, otherwise known as the Princeton & District Arena.