After posting back to back perfect weekends, the Summerland Steam will load up and head to the Cariboo for a pair of games this coming weekend. Both will be against the 100 Mile House Wranglers, who sit at 14-5-0-0-2 headed into the weekend. The Wranglers lead the Okanagan Shuswap Conference and Doug Birks Division with 30 points through 21 games, and suffered their first home ice loss in regulation on Tuesday night against the Revelstoke Grizzlies.
This weekend marks the only two games against the Wranglers that the Steam will play this season. The first of the two will be played at the South Cariboo Rec Center in 100 Mile House, while the second game (Saturday night) will be played as a HOME GAME FOR SUMMERLAND at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex in Williams Lake, BC.
The game in Williams Lake on Saturday night is being put on by the “Williams Lake Junior B Hockey” group headed by former Belfast Giants defenseman Rob Sandrock. Sandrock, a native of Williams Lake, played in the KIJHL for the Golden Rockets during the 1992/93 season. He and his team have been trying to generate momentum behind bringing a KIJHL team to the City of Williams Lake, by way of either the expansion process or relocation.
The last time the city had a junior hockey team it was the Williams Lake Timberwolves in the 2009-10 BCHL season. After having the team be suspended from BCHL action in ’07/’08 and ’08/’09 while attempting to relocate, ownership of the team was transferred. They returned to Williams Lake for one final year before being suspended indefinitely due to being a franchise “Not in good standing”, after the owners (and the league) accumulated heavy debt and could not continue to operate the franchise.
Last season the 100 Mile House Wranglers tested the Williams Lake ‘waters’ for the first time, hosting the Kamloops Storm in Williams Lake during exhibition season and playing to a 5-5 tie. They also played the Storm in Williams Lake in a regular season contest around this time of the year (Nov 28) and beat them 4-2 in front of what I understand to be a large crowd.
Another large crowd is expected in Williams Lake this weekend on Saturday night for the back end of a home and home between the 100 Mile House Wranglers and the Summerland Steam. The Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex will likely be lively, loud, and a whole lot of fun, as it seems the whole community is hyped for the event. Local business has also jumped on the wagon in Williams Lake, with the local Tim Hortons sponsoring the event and Heartland Toyota providing the first 500 fans with FREE Thundersticks. Margett’s Meats also has $10 off coupons on the backs of tickets with a purchase of $50 or more, and a local pizzeria called Red Tomato Pies is offering pizza to the loudest fans in the building as well as 15% off with any ticket purchase.
The community of Williams Lake seems to have really gotten behind this venture that Sandrock and his team have put together, and it should be a great night of hockey action. You can read up on the event courtesy of the Williams Lake Tribune HERE.
NOW, enough about Williams Lake. Let’s get down to business.
One thing you can DEFINITELY count on is a large crowd on Friday night at the South Cariboo Rec Centre in 100 Mile House. They’ve got the largest crowd numbers on record in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference, and quite possibly the loudest barn on this side of the Kootenays. It’s been that way since their inaugural season 3 seasons ago, and it isn’t showing signs of stopping.
It helps that they’ve got a good hockey team.
The Wranglers proved to be beatable on home ice after a loss to the Revelstoke Grizzlies on Tuesday by a 2-1 score. The loss marks the first time this season the Wranglers have not recorded at least a point in a home game. They lost their home opener to the Chase Heat in overtime, but hadn’t lost a game on home ice in regulation since until Tuesday night.
By the numbers, the Wranglers are built on solid defense and goaltending. I haven’t seen any games of theirs yet this season, so I couldn’t tell you how they score or who scores the majority of their goals, but I can tell you that the combination of Zane Steeves and Adam Derochie do a heck of a job keeping pucks out of their net.
Head Coach and GM Dale Hladun likes a fast, physical team that gives their opponent all they can handle, and that seems to be what 100 Mile House has done so far this season. Hladun’s preferences for his teams go all the way back to his days with the Princeton Posse, and it seems as though not a lot has changed there. Hladun generally puts together a solid team from top to bottom, rolls 4 lines and all 6 D regularly, and counts on the guys he has to win him games with the system he puts in place. He’s had success with this model, and seems to have a good group of kids again in 2015.16.
The Wranglers come into this weekend’s home and home mini-series with a 7-2-0-0-1 record in their last 10, and by all accounts have been playing great hockey since the beginning of the season. Keeping with the Williams Lake narrative, Williams Lake native Justin Bond leads the Wranglers in scoring with 19 points (7G + 12A) through their first 21 games.
As for the Summerland Steam, they’re getting there. Summerland is in the same conversation as the Wranglers when it comes to strong play, but their record isn’t as stellar. Sitting at 11-8 through their first 19 games, their record isn’t quite as good as it should be. With how close the majority of their games have been and their consistent effort in those games, they could have as many as 15 wins. Unfortunately, defensive lapses for a couple of minutes at a time have cost them so far this season, and it’s something they’ve been working on as they go.
They’ve been doing much of the same thing all year, and that’s dominating possession, controlling the flow of play, and directing shots at the net. Recently though, they’ve been working on quality over quantity, and it seems to have computed into better results. Instead of throwing everything they can at the net, they’re doing a better job of shooting for rebounds and crashing the crease, which has led to more goals. They’ve also been working with Director of Player Development Mike Rigby quite a bit on their defensive zone exits, and what it takes to get out cleanly and make a good, quick transition.
They head to the Cariboo this weekend with a 5-5 record in their last 10 games, but winner of 4 straight. Those 4 wins came over Princeton, Nelson, Kelowna and Castlegar, and 3 of the 4 were quite convincing in nature. The Steam’s on ice product is coming, and when it all comes together it’s a whole lot of fun to watch.
Their goaltending has come around, too. Matt Huber has been great in his last 3 starts, not allowing a single goal and posting 180 straight minutes with the current goose egg. He’s brought his season totals down to a 2.07 GAA and a .918 SV% in his 10 appearances thus far. Newcomer Jacob Mullen’s been no slouch either, and should be familiar to the 100 Mile House Wranglers after the playoffs last season. Mullen was a member of the Kamloops Storm from the January 10 trade deadline onward last season, and only allowed 4 goals in 4 appearances in the second round playoff series between the two teams.
Since joining the Steam on October 23rd, Mullen has steadied the crease for Summerland. In 4 appearances Mullen has recorded 2 wins, a 1.81 GAA and a .920 SV%. The two games that go down as losses on Mullen’s stat card very well could have been wins as well, save for a pair of 3 minute defensive lapses against the Kelowna Chiefs.
For the first time since September 19th of this year, all of the Summerland Steam skaters are healthy. They’ll have a full complement of players this weekend, as all but Calvin Hadley should be available to Head Coach John Depourcq and his staff. Hadley will be available Saturday night, but will sit Friday due to the 2nd game of a 2 game suspension for a Check to the Head of Kelowna’s Tyler Love on November 6. Love got up and skated to the bench, and didn’t miss a shift, but Hadley was assessed a 5 minute major for head contact by a lineseman, carrying an automatic suspension.
Puck Drop from the South Cariboo Rec Center in 100 Mile House will be 7PM on Friday night. Catch the webcast live at PlayFullScreen.com for all the exciting KIJHL Action!