To say the Summerland Steam are off to a good start to the 2016/17 KIJHL Season would be a bit of an understatement. After two wins this past weekend over Revelstoke and Sicamous, the Steam are 3-0 and have scored 17 goals in three regular season games to date. They’ve looked mighty good doing it, and are showing early signs that they’ve got the ‘make-up’ to contend for a division championship . They dispatched the reigning Western Canadian Champs on opening night to the tune of 7-2, and backed that up with back to back 5 goal efforts in convincing wins over Revelstoke and Sicamous this past weekend.
The most convincing part of the three wins over Doug Birks Division opponents to start the season wasn’t the scores themselves, but that every forward has at least a point, and 11 different players have tickled twine in the first three games of the season. Not surprisingly, the only player to not register a point thus far is team captain Alex Williams, who with 15 points in 107 regular season KIJHL games isn’t known to light up the scoresheet by any means. ‘Grizz’ is, however, doing what ‘Grizz’ does, and that’s be steady on the blue line, a steady voice in the dressing room, and a no-nonsense type of captain.
The usual suspects have been just that for Summerland to start the season. The Yukon line is all over teams with their forecheck, and they’re putting up the points to prove it while Calvin Hadley, Cole Williams, Scott Robinson and Brogan Lautard have been rock solid on the point alongside Alex Williams. Goaltending’s been good for Summerland, too. Matt Huber is steady as always, and newcomer Matthew Vernon had a solid debut in Sicamous on Saturday night.
The Steam knew coming into this season that they would have a strong team on paper, but on paper really means nothing until you start to play the games. They’ve come out in the first three games, though, and shown that what they’ve got on paper is exactly what they’ve got on the ice, too. Head Coach John Depourcq and his staff along with GM Gregg Wilson and Director of Player Personnel Mike Rigby have done a great job in surrounding the 13 returnees from last season’s squad with quality players that can make plays and create loads of depth.
They went out and acquired Kelowna native Steven Fiust from the Revelstoke Grizzlies in the offseason, as well as plucked Kelowna talents Ben Dietrich-Scammell (Okanagan Rockets MML), Jeremy Hite and Mathew Alcorn (Kelowna Midget T1) to help fill the holes vacated by outgoing players from last season. They also looked locally, finding Morey Babakaiff (Penticton Midget T2) to play alongside Devon, AB native Everett Scherger and returnee Calvin Rout on a line that’s caused their fair share of damage so far in the early part of this season.
On the ice the Steam are fast, physical, and have a finishing ability that hasn’t been matched so far early in this KIJHL Season. That, however, is going to be put to the test on Friday night when the desert dogs from the south pop in for their first visit of the year. The ’97 South Series’ is something that is always an entertaining event. The eight game series between the Steam and the Coyotes gets heated quickly, and after playing 30 games against one another since the start of exhibition season in 2014/15, it’s likely to pick up right where it left off last year in Game 6 of the KIJHL’s Okanagan Division Final.
For the first time in a long time, the Coyotes have more rookies than they do veterans. The rookies outnumber the vets 12-11, which is something that is a little different from previous seasons.
Does it matter much? No. Absolutely not.
Head Coach/GM of the Coyotes, Ken Law, and his team recruit so well that being young isn’t a detriment to their team. They’ve got enough veteran leadership in their lineup to help bring the rookies along, and they’re going to be dangerous as ever. Like Summerland, they’re also 3-0 to start this young KIJHL season. They’ve scored eleven times while only surrendering three, and like Summerland, are led by a core of veterans who know how to navigate the start to a KIJHL season and lead by example.
The likes of Colin Bell, Judd Repole, Carter Shannon and team captain Daniel Stone, all returnees, have combined to put up 19 points in the Coyotes first three games. Much of that damage has come on the power play, clipping already at 22% through three games. As a matter of fact, 36% of Coyotes’ scoring this season has come on the power play, which is something Summerland is going to want to look out for.
The Steam know all too well the kind of damage a Coyotes’power play can cause, and tempers seem to flare occasionally between these two teams. Being that they’ve seen one another 30 times in 2+ years it comes as no surprise, but emotions need to stay in check in order to not get burned by the Coyotes’ PP.
Last season in the playoffs, Summerland was able to beat Osoyoos 4 times in 6 games, 2 more times than they’d beaten them in the last three regular seasons. They did so by staying disciplined and making the Coyotes play at 5v5, which will have to happen again for Summerland to be successful.
Being the first time the teams see each other this season, there may be a bit of a feeling out period. Knowing the two squads though, that will last until the last bar of O’Canada rings through the building, and then they’ll be ready to get after one another.
It should be a clash of Okanagan Division Titans on Friday night at The Station, so get your tickets early and come and enjoy great hockey!