STEAM PREP FOR BIG WEEKEND WITH CHASE, OSOYOOS

Just over a week ago, we were getting ready for the two biggest games of the season to date for the Summerland Steam. Unfortunately, they lost both of those games to the Osoyoos Coyotes.

Thankfully, the Steam were able to bounce back with a Sunday win against the Kelowna Chiefs. Leading into Sunday’s game against Kelowna, Summerland was looking to get back on track. Though the end result always matters in junior hockey, coming together as a group and bouncing back was more important. The points aren’t everything, particularly in a division as spread out as the Okanagan Division is right now, but the points sure help the psyche.

The end result on Sunday was good, a 5-2 victory over the Kelowna Chiefs, but I’d argue the way Summerland got to the result was more important. They played as a unit. 5 up, 5 down type hockey that allowed them to outshoot their opponent by a 37-15 margin and put the game away relatively early on.

Yes, the penalty kill allowed two and yes, the power play went 0-for-6, but they looked good doing it. Better than they had for a month previous, anyway, and if they keep doing what they did on Sunday the numbers are going to come.

Top to bottom in Sunday’s win, it was a good day for the Steam. It was great to see their big guns firing on all cylinders. Riley Pettitt had a goal, Josh Pilon notched his first since joining the Steam, and Jack Mills and Paulsen Lautard each had 3 points.

That’s a big deal. It may not seem like it, but it is. When everybody is on the same page, this Summerland Steam Junior Hockey Club is a contender to win the league championship. They’re built to win, and when they work hard and stay disciplined, they’re very dangerous.

They’ll look to get themselves on a roll this weekend as they head to Chase to face the Heat, followed by a visit to Oliver to play the Okanagan Division leading Osoyoos Coyotes. A Friday matchup with the Heat at the Art Holding Memorial Arena in Chase comes first, and on paper, it’s looks to be tight.

By tight, I mean pretty much identical. Both teams have 45 points, both score and defend nearly identically, and both have goaltenders in the top 5 of the KIJHL. The expected goaltending matchup on Friday night would be Summerland’s Matt Huber vs Chase’s Nic Bruyere.

Huber, a rookie in the KIJHL has had a stellar season thus far. In 19 appearances the 18-year-old from Calgary, AB, has 11 wins, including 6 shutouts. He carries a goals against average at 2.16 and a save percentage hovering around 91.5%.

Bruyere, meanwhile, is in his 2nd year in the KIJHL, and has 16 wins in 26 appearances. The 19-year-old native of Burnaby, BC carries a 2.21 GAA and a save percentage just below 93% into play this coming weekend.

Both, I believe, are a product of the team in front of them. These two teams are both extremely talented and are in good standing to make the playoffs when the end of February comes around.

If you haven’t watched or followed the Chase Heat, you need to make sure you know the name Logan Mostat. Mostat is the leading scorer for the Heat, and leads the entire Okangan Shuswap Conference of the KIJHL in goals with 21. The 18-year-old Mostat is in his 3rd full season in the KIJHL, and provides the Heat with a big time scoring threat as well as a bit of grit. A talented individual, Mostat has 35 points in 35 games this season for the Heat, and isn’t afraid to mix it up when necessary either.

He, along with the likes of Kolten Moore, Trevor Okino and Zachary Fournier lead a strong Chase Heat attack that has scored the third most goals in the conference. A big part of the Chase Heat offense is their power play, where the team scores nearly a third of their total goals. 32.89% of their goal total for the season has come via their power play, and if Summerland hopes to win a game on the road on Friday night, they’re going to have to address that.

Luckily for the Summerland Steam, their penalty kill is GOOD. The Steam PK has been quietly terrific all season long, sitting 2nd in the KIJHL at 88.27%. They do a good job of closing off passing lanes, and when a shot opportunity is allowed, Summerland goaltenders are able to see it and stop it the majority of the time.

In addition to good d-zone play, Summerland’s PK has also chipped in with a league-high 10 shorthanded goals this season. A big reason for that is the pairing of Jack Mills and Riley Pettitt together on the penalty kill. They account for 6 of Summerland’s 10 ‘shorties’ this season.

As good as Summerland’s PK has been this year, their power play has been worrisome. Collecting PP goals at just over a 10% clip this season, Summerland’s power play should be much better than it is considering the personnel it boasts. Despite the relative lack of production, it’s shown signs of life in the past couple of weeks and it seems as though it’s only a matter of time before PP goals start to come.

Bottom Line: In the two games this weekend, Summerland should be content to play them at 5v5. If they spend the majority of those two games at even strength, they have a good chance to win them. If they’re able to do so, they’re going to find themselves with one of those coveted little ‘X’ marks beside their name on the KIJHL website, signifying a clinched spot in the playoffs.

Puck drop on Friday night goes at 7:00 at the Art Holding Memorial Arena in Chase. Sunday’s game is a 1:35 start at the Oliver Arena against the Osoyoos Coyotes.

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