STEAM, COYOTES RENEW #97SOUTH RIVALRY IN OKANAGAN DIVISION FINAL

Well, here we are again. Almost exactly one year removed from last season’s Okanagan Division Final, and the same two teams are getting set for it again. The rivalry between the Summerland Steam and the Osoyoos Coyotes is a great one, and it’s playoff series’ like the one from last season that make it so. These two teams have good games almost every time they play, despite some of the scores, and last year’s playoffs were a great look into what this season series can really turn into. Let’s go back for a second:

The 2015 KIJHL Okanagan Division Final was one that saw the Coyotes jump out to a 2-0 series lead on a tired Summerland Steam club. The Steam, having played a hard fought first round series with the Kelowna Chiefs that ended in a 2-1 Game 7 victory, had just one day to prepare for the Okanagan Division Final. They hung in the first game, losing 4-2 by way of two shorthanded goals from Coyotes Forward Brett Jewell.

Summerland then hit the wall in Game 2, and took an 8-2 defeat in their 9th game in 12 days. They would regroup in Game 3, taking a 3-2 victory in triple overtime on a goal from Cole Woodliffe. Paulsen Lautard scored twice in that Game 3. In Game 4, Summerland broke out for a 6-2 victory to tie the series at 2, and showed some life with a complete effort top to bottom.

The effort was for naught, though, as Osoyoos would win Game 5 at home by a 5-2 score, and then come back to Summerland and derail the Steam with a 3-2 game 6 series clincher. Colin Bell scored twice in that game, and ultimately sent the Coyotes through to the Conference Final where they were defeated in five games by the Kamloops Storm.

Great rivalries like the one between the Steam and the Coyotes are born from series’ like these. Two teams who are close in proximity playing one another potentially seven times in a ten day period, to go along with the eight times they’ve already faced off in the regular season.

These are two unbelievably talented hockey teams, and playoff hockey seems to bring out the best in them. On one side you’ve got the Coyotes, an extremely skilled, deep hockey team that brings their best on a consistent basis. Especially, it seems, against the Summerland Steam. They’re proven winners and are extremely well coached and disciplined, and are as close as you’re going to find to a ‘juggernaut’ in the KIJHL.

On the other hand you’ve got those Steam, who are equally as deep and talented, they just have trouble beating the Osoyoos Coyotes. In 52 games during the 2015/16 season the Summerland Steam lost 16 games in regulation time. 7 of those came to the Osoyoos Coyotes. That means their win% against the rest of the KIJHL was .727%. That’s an elite number, and their only stumbling block now sits in front of them in the Okanagan Division Final of the KIJHL Playoffs.

During the 2015/16 KIJHL Regular Season the Steam were only able to beat the Coyotes once, on January 10th, by a score of 3-2. That victory came on the strength of a Calvin Hadley goal with 5:59 to play that sent Summerland to a comeback victory.

It was their only win in eight tries against the Okanagan Division and Okanagan Shuswap Conference Champion Coyotes, but it was also their only COMPLETE effort of the season series. When you look at the scores from the season series in 2015/16, it looks as though Osoyoos ran away with all but two games. The score, however, doesn’t always tell all and in this case when you look at boxscores it just tells you that Summerland had mental lapses and penalty trouble in 6 of 8 regular season meetings.

In the only two close games, Summerland allowed just two goals in each, and didn’t have the 6 or 8 minute letdown they’ve been prone to against the Coyotes in the past. In 3 of the 4 meetings between Summerland and Osoyoos that I had the privilege to call in 2015/16 the scores were close until the third period.

In their first 3 visits to the Summerland Arena, Osoyoos beat Summerland 6-2, 4-0, and 7-2. 13 of the Coyotes 17 goals came in the third period at the Summerland Arena, which tells you something. As far as totals go, the Coyotes scored exactly 50% of their 38 goals in the series in third periods. 19 of them. Whether fatigue or otherwise, Summerland’s third periods have to be better against the Coyotes. Simple as that.

If Summerland can do some of these things, they’re going to hang in this series just fine. If not, it could be a pretty short one. Five things that I think (my opinion, no one else’s) will make them successful against a very deep, talented, well coached Osoyoos Coyotes team are these:

  1. Limit Power Play Opportunities – If Summerland can stay disciplined, find the physical line and stay on it without stepping over, they could be in good shape.
  2. Play A Full 60 – This is one of those things that’s said it seems like every night, regardless of who the opponent is. For Summerland it’s important to get out to a good start, and carry that through the game by using 4 lines and 6 D.
  3. Contain Coyotes’ Top Line – The line of Rainer Glimpel, Bobby Larue, and Braeden Tuck have absolutely dominated the Summerland Steam this season. They’ve combined for 41 points in eight games. Glimpel (5G+12A in season series) led the KIJHL in scoring with 85 points (30G, 55A) during the regular season, and is in my opinion the smartest hockey player in the KIJHL. Summerland will have to find a way to limit the damage he does to them in this series if they want to be successful
  4. Use The Forecheck – The Summerland Steam are at their best when they use their combination of size, speed and skill for the greater good. By the greater good I mean getting the puck deep, using their speed to close on opposing defenseman and winning puck battles down low.
  5. Best on Best – In this series, the Summerland Steam’s best players NEED to be their best players if they want a shot to beat the Osoyoos Coyotes. Watching them all year and most of these players in this series for the past couple of years, I can tell you that when Summerland plays the system their coaching staff has in place, they hang with these Coyotes. They can handle these Coyotes, and they might even have a chance to beat these Coyotes. They have it in them, they just have to bring it and bring it from the start.

     The difference between the Regular Season and the Playoffs is paramount. There is no time to recover from one bad game, and heck, it’s tough to even recover from one bad period. Especially against the best team in the conference and the two-time defending conference champions.

Everything in the playoffs is amplified, and it makes for better games, better competition, and eventually turns these young men into better people and better hockey players. It’s important to not overthink things, and although hard to do, we’re still talking about 16-20 year old kids doing what they love to do, and that’s to play hockey.

So have a look at the schedule, grab your tickets, and let’s get this thing going.

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