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