STEAM HEAD TO KELOWNA FOR SUNDAY BATTLE WITH CHIEFS

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Newly lamented Kelowna Captain Josh Baird chases a puck against Summerland’s Cole Williams in a December 18th contest at Rutland Arena. A game Summerland won 2-1. Photo: Steve Dunsmoor / Dunsmoor Creative

Looking to extend a three game win streak, the Summerland Steam will head up the highway on Sunday evening to do battle with the division rival Kelowna Chiefs. The Steam are coming off a couple of wins earlier in the week, a 4-1 victory over Princeton on Tuesday and a 1-0 shutout of the Spokane Braves on Friday night. Winners of three straight, the Summerland Steam also have one other win, and an overtime loss in the month of January to date. That has them sitting at a 4-0-0-0-1 mark, and in a great spot heading out on the road on Sunday to play the Chiefs.

The Chiefs haven’t had the same luck as the Steam so far in 2016. We’re only 16 days into the calendar year and it’s already been an interesting one for the Chiefs, including a trade of their captain, Ryan Lawson, at the January 10th trading deadline. On the ice the Chiefs are 1-2, beating up on the Princeton Posse by a 6-3 score before falling 5-2 to Summerland on January 3rd and 5-1 to the Osoyoos Coyotes on January 6th. That was the last game they played, 10 days ago from the time of this write.

Since then, there’s been some significant changes, as previously mentioned, in the Chiefs locker room. Not in the form of new players, as only one player has departed, but that player was their captain. On January 10th, the trade deadline, the Chiefs sent captain Ryan Lawson to the VIJHL’s Victoria Cougars in exchange for Future Considerations. Trading your captain mid-season is a big deal, and it will be interesting to see how the Chiefs respond.

The change has allowed Head Coach Jason Tansem and his staff to re-tool the leadership group a little bit for the Chiefs and a new Captain was named on January 11th. That young man is Josh Baird. #27 for the Kelowna Chiefs, who I would argue has been their emotional leader on the ice all season, will wear the ‘C’ for the remainder of the season.

Arguably Kelowna’s best and most versatile player, Baird is the right choice and would be mine as well to lead the Chiefs. The importance of a player like Josh Baird to a lineup is paramount, because he can play any time, anywhere. He plays the game hard, clean, and in all situations. You need a forward who can score you a goal? He’s your guy. You need a defenseman who can help stop one? He’s your guy. A PP quarterback? Yeah, he’s that too, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he’s the right choice for Head Coach Jason Tansem and the Chiefs to wear the ‘C’.

Along with Dakota Kittle, Josh Johnston, and Luke Kalenuik as his assistants, they’ll look to lead the Chiefs in the right direction and get them set up headed for the playoffs. They’re just a few points from clinching themselves a birth in the KIJHL playoffs, where they’re likely to start against the Summerland Steam in round 1 for the second straight year.

I think Josh has been a great on-ice leader all season. His tenacity really sets an example for the rest of the team. I feel the same about Luke Kalenuik and Josh Johnston. They’ve done a great job this year and deserve to be recognized for it.

– Justin McCartney, the Voice of the Kelowna Chiefs.

The Okanagan Division Standings at this point in time with around 15 games to go in the regular season is the most spread out I’ve seen it in my 5 years of covering the league. There’s only 4 points between 1st place Osoyoos and 2nd place Summerland, though Osoyoos has 2 games in hand. From there it spreads out. The Chiefs, who sit third, trail the Steam by 13 points with 2 games in hand. They lead the 4th place North Okanagan Knights by 12 points, and the Knights are up 6 points on the 5th place Princeton Posse with 2 games in hand.

The Chiefs play the Knights on Saturday night in Armstrong, and will be looking to knock the rust off after not playing for 10 days. They’ll surely be ready to play Summerland on Sunday evening after not having much luck against them lately, which means Summerland had better be ready to go.

Even though they got a couple of wins earlier this week, they didn’t look particularly good doing it. On Tuesday night they played arguably the worst game (from a viewing standpoint) of the season with the Princeton Posse. It was slow, and there was nearly no flow to the game even though Summerland picked up a 4-1 win.

On Friday night they were much better. They only got one past Spokane Braves goaltender Patrick Kasper, and they spent what felt like the majority of the game killing penalties, but they got the job done and looked good at even strength. If they can keep themselves out of the box and keep the emotions in check, they should be just fine.

I would expect after putting up a big ol’ 0 against the Spokane Braves on Friday night that we’ll likely see Matt Kostiw go again for the Steam. He was a little scrambly in the first 5 minutes of Friday night’s game, but after that he made things look very, VERY easy in the Summerland net. The Steam will hope to insulate him with good defense that leads to good offense to put up a winning formula against Kelowna. With the Chiefs playing in Armstrong on Saturday, I’m not sure who to expect in goal on Sunday. Both Brady Lenardon and Josh Tetlichi have been solid this year though, so the Chiefs won’t go wrong no matter who it is.

Puck drop goes at 7PM on Sunday night from Rutland Arena East, and you can catch all the action with Justin McCartney on PlayFullScreen.com.

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