Steam Make Mutual Commitment with Jirousek for 2017/18

As the 2017/18 KIJHL season draws near, the Summerland Steam are beginning to put together a roster on paper that should compete for a division championship on the ice. 

With the players who are eligible to return, including 2017 Rookie of the Year Everett Scherger, Top Defenceman Cole Williams, Most Improved Player Morey Babakaiff, and Team MVP Matt Huber, things already look promising for Head Coach John Depourcq. Add into the mix the commitment of Okanagan Hockey Academy defenseman Bailey Tamminga and all other potential returnees, and you’ve got the makings of a pretty solid hockey team. 

The Steam added to their strong recruiting class recently by coming to a mutual commitment with 16-year old forward Lukas Jirousek. Jirousek played two games at the end of the 2016/17 season for the Steam as an affiliate player, and looked comfortable in the ice time he received. 

The 6’4″, 185lb forward from Whitehorse, Yukon (yes, another one!) spent the past two seasons in the Pacific Coast Hockey Academy program. In those two seasons, Jirousek spent his years playing a season in each of the Elite 15 and Midget Prep divisions of the CSSHL, averaging 0.5 points per game over 47 career games. 

In 2015/16, playing on an Elite 15 squad that went 7-24-0-4, Jirousek notched 6 goals and 5 assists for 11 points in just 18 games played. 

After moving to the Midget Prep program for the 2016/17 season, Lukas found himself on a team that went 6-23-0-1 in 30 regular season games, and failed to qualify for the CSSHL Playoffs. During that season, Jirousek tallied 6 goals and 7 assists for thirteen points in 29 games.

The most impressive stat of the bunch, perhaps, is penalty minutes. For a young man that is 6″2, 170lbs as a 15-year old in the CSSHL, the fact he accumulated just 6 penalty minutes in 29 games and used that big frame effectively to play dependable minutes is something to take note of.

“We’re very excited to have a mutual commitment with Lukas,” says Steam GM Mike Rigby, “He showed really well in limited time here last season as an affiliate player and we’re thrilled to potentially have him full time for the 2017/18 KIJHL Season. He’s a big young man that moves well and creates offense with a good hockey sense and great set of hands.”

Jirousek has grown 2 inches and put on 15lbs since the end of last season while training with Allout Hockey over the course of the summer. He entered last season at 6’2″ and 170lbs (according to CSSHL.ca), and is now reportedly closing in on 6’4″, 185lbs. All out Hockey is the same training program used by previous Steam standouts Jarrett Malchow and Wyatt Gale, as well as Kamloops Storm forwards Kole and Kaine Comin, all products of the Yukon Territory.

Not only is Lukas getting bigger and stronger in his training programs, but he’s also continued his strong summer with a great showing at a recent prospect showcase in Whistler. There he tallied 14 points in just five games against other players born between 1999 and 2002.

Upon his arrival in Summerland, Jirousek will join a strong group that should surely compete once again at the top of the Okanagan Division. A strong class of eligible returnees, mixed with a talented group of rookies should have the Steam excited about what 2017/18 can turn out to be.

They’ll look to start strong, with eight of their first ten games against opponents from outside their own division. Their only divisional games in the first month come on back to back nights on September 29 at home vs Osoyoos, and September 30 in Rutland against the Kelowna Chiefs. 

The Steam will play two exhibition games prior to the start of the season, September 1st in Osoyoos, and September 2nd in Summerland. 

Steam Look For First Month Surge against Birks as Schedule Draws Near

It won’t take long for rivalries to renew when the 2017/18 KIJHL Season gets underway in about eight weeks time. With the announcement of the KIJHL Schedule set to come in the next few weeks, details are beginning to emerge regarding the way the Summerland Steam will start the season off. 

They will hold their main camp August 26&27, by invite only, at the Summerland Arena. They’ll then play two exhibition games against their fiercest rivals, the Osoyoos Coyotes, on September 1st and 2nd. Though just exhibition games, blood runs hot between the Steam and the Coyotes at the best of times. After playing 50+ times including exhibition and playoffs over the past four years, and with the Coyotes sweeping the Steam from the 2016/17 playoffs, it’s safe to assume it won’t take long for the rivalry to heat up once again. 

The last time the two teams played a mini-series of exhibition games, it was in advance of the 2015/16 season. Each team won a game by a 4-2 score and fans were entertained by fast, physical hockey that included three fights, and over 100 minutes in penalties.

Those two exhibition games will be held September 1st, Friday, at the Sun Bowl Arena, and September 2nd, Saturday, at the Summerland Arena. 

Once rosters are solidified, the two teams won’t see each other until September 29th. The Steam will start their season with six straight games against the Doug Birks Division. They’ll play eight of their first ten regular season games against teams outside their division, with the only inter-divisional games coming September 29 at home to Osoyoos, and September 30 in Rutland against the Kelowna Chiefs.

It’s apparent that if Summerland wants a good chance at a division crown again in 2017/18, they’ll have to get a good start. That means they’ll have to continue the trend of playing well against the other division in the conference.  If the team’s play outside their division is similar to the 2016/17 season, they’ll get off to the start they want without any trouble. Last year they were 12-2-1-0 against the combination of Chase, 100 Mile House, Kamloops, Revelstoke and Sicamous, and carried a +36 goal differential through those 15 contests.

Play against division rivals is what wins you the division, but bonus points coming from beyond are what keep you in the hunt in one of the toughest divisions in Canadian Junior B hockey.

Last season, Summerland lost 9 games in regulation all season long and finished second in that very tough division. They got at least a point in 25 of their 32 divisional games, a points percentage of .781%, and finished second. That tells you how tough the division is, and will be again in 2017/18.

The full schedule should be available on the KIJHL website in the coming weeks, and we’ll know more at that time about how the full schedule shakes out, but for now we know that Summerland will open the season on home ice, against the 100 Mile House Wranglers on Friday, September 8th at 7:30pm 

 

KIJHL AGM Produces Changes to BC Junior B Hockey 

News from KIJHL meetings in June is seeing sweeping changes to postseason play in BC Junior B Hockey. 

The grind of playoffs, particularly in the KIJHL, has been much maligned and well documented over the last several years, with all roads leading to the Cyclone Taylor Cup. From there, the winner gained entry into the Keystone Cup, the Western Canadian Championship tournament, and hopped on what was always either a flight or a VERY long bus ride one, two, or sometimes even three provinces to the west. 

All three BC based Junior B Leagues, Vancouver Island’s VIJHL, the Lower Mainland’s PIJHL, and the interior based KIJHL have voted unanimously to drop participation in the Keystone Cup for the 2017/18 season. 

This means that British Columbia will not have a representative at the 2018 Western Canadian Championships, and that everybody’s season will end no later than the annual Cyclone Taylor Cup provincial championship tournament held in early April. 

To the casual fan, this looks like a bad thing. To those involved with the teams vying for spots in these tournaments, it’s seen as a good thing. Not only is the Keystone Cup tournament a taxing grind to get to from a playing standpoint, it’s even less viable from a money standpoint. It’s been well noted in the past that teams lose thousands and thousands of dollars in pursuit of a Western Canadian Championship, and the leagues have finally voted to end that trend. 

The changes made by the PIJHL, VIJHL, and KIJHL not only have an effect on the Western Canadian Championship front, but on the league playoff front as well. For the KIJHL, they’ll go back to all four rounds being best-of 7, after testing a year or two of a 7-7-5-5 format. The split format was much-maligned across the league, particularly this past season when the KIJHL voted to eliminate the crossover between conferences. This meant that the two teams playing in the league final would be seeing each other for the first time, and only had 5 games to try and win a championship. 

The league voted last year for no crossover based on cost, and did so as a two year trial. They also voted to shorten the season to 47 games from 52, to try and limit 3-game weekends as well as mid-week games. The 2017/18 season will mark the second year of the agreed upon deal, and the matter will be brought up again at the AGM next June ahead of the 2018/19 season. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the league bring the crossover back into play, and go back to a 52 game schedule.