A STORM ROLLS IN AS STEAM START 2ND HALF

 

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As we officially move past the halfway point of the season for the Summerland Steam, they’re not going to look back. Instead they look ahead, straight into a Storm. That would be the Kamloops Storm, of course, who come in as the 1st place team in the KIJHL’s Doug Birks Division with 43 points.

The fact the Storm are in first place is not at all surprising. They’ve been at or near the top of their division, and the KIJHL, for many years. It seems that every year General Manager Barry Dewar and Head Coach Ed Patterson have a unique challenge ahead of them. It seems every season when it comes to counting returnees for teams across the league, the Storm usually have less than everybody else. This is no doubt due to the fact that they develop kids at a higher rate than just about any other program in the KIJHL.

At this particular moment, according to eliteprospects.com, the Storm currently have 17 alumni playing at higher levels including the ECHL, WHL, NCAA, CIS, SJHL, ACHA, and BCHL. That’s a big number. Moreover, it kind of blows your mind when you look at that number and more than half, 10 to be exact, could still be playing KIJHL hockey based on their age.

It looks like they’ll add to that total this season, with a very young team on the ice each and every night. The thing you may not know about the first place Storm is that they play at a high level and maintain a top 5 spot in the entire KIJHL with only one player older than 18-years-old on their roster. Most teams rely on their older players (this season born in ’95 and ’96) to score points and be leaders both on the ice and off of it. The Storm do too, but they’ve only got one, and he’s their captain.

That player is Brett Watkinson, a 20-year-old veteran from Lillooet, BC. Watkinson is in his 4th full season with the Storm, and is relied on heavily by Head Coach Ed Patterson and his staff. A relatively small player by stature, just 5-foot, 10 inches tall and 160 LBS, Watkinson plays a heavy game and isn’t afraid to mix it up when necessary. He’s a guy that by all accounts will give his teammates and coaches 110% in any situation, any time, any where.

The great part about Watkinson as a player is that he gives you all that, and has 35 career penalty minutes in 160 KIJHL games.  That sort of thing rubs off on teammates, and that’s exactly what you want from your captain.

Watkinson leads the likes of youngsters Keaton Gordon, Dante Raposo, Dario Piva, Hunter Kero and the newly acquired Zackari Andrusiak into Summerland on Friday night with a 5-3-0-1 record in their last 10 contests.

Andrusiak, a former Vernon Viper, was released from his BCHL Club on November 6 after starting the season with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. He played 7 games with the Americans without registering a point, before collecting just 2 assists for Vernon in 11 games. He’s making up for that now, as he’s lit up the KIJHL since being acquired by the Kamloops Storm from the North Okanagan Knights in early November.

In 11 games played for the Storm thus far, the 17-year-old from Armstrong, BC, has a ludicrous 25 points (14g+11a), and is a big part of the Storm attack. He is already 2nd on the team in scoring, and leads the KIJHL in points per game average with 2.3. Alongside team scoring leader Hunter Kero (8g+24a=32Pts), Keaton Gordon, Dario Piva, Wilson Northey, and Dante Raposo, Andrusiak leads a balanced attack that can score with all 4 lines.

Summerland is going to have to watch out for that on Friday night, but I guarantee you if asked, Head Coach John Depourcq will say one thing:

We can’t worry about what they’re doing. If we play our game we’ll be fine.

 

It’s something that he says during his pre-game interview just about every night, and I would expect it will be no different on Friday.

Summerland’s been rolling of late, and come in with a balanced attack of their own. The success of Jack Mills, Paulsen Lautard and Riley Pettitt has been well documented lately, but the likes of Cole Williams, Wyatt Gale, Jarrett Malchow and Braden Eliuk have been chipping in as well.

Gale, Malchow, and Williams have been playing together off and on for the past month and change, and are really gaining some chemistry together. Gale has converted 14 points in his past 16 games, Malchow has followed with 12 in his past 15, while Eliuk (11 in 16) and Cole Williams (10 in 16) have followed suit.

Recently the Summerland attack has been bolstered by some unbelievable goaltending from Jake Mullen and Matt Huber. In the month of November they put up 8 wins between them, with a team goals against average of just over 1.40. The improvement in the crease seems to give Summerland the confidence to take a few chances when necessary, and really put games away.

With a healthy defense corps, Summerland is good in all ends of the ice, and should come out as one of the top teams in the league. If they hadn’t had such a poor October, they’d be right there with the rest. They’ve won 12 of their past 13 thanks in large part to a strong first pass, quality over quantity on the shot clock, and rock solid goaltending when it’s needed. They’ve been winning the possession battle at a 55% clip as of late, and they’ll look to continue that this weekend with the home game Friday with Kamloops, and a visit to Sicamous on Sunday afternoon.

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