For the second time this season, the Summerland Steam will travel to the Nor-Val Centre in Armstrong for a clash with the North Okanagan Knights. Division rivals, the Steam and the Knights can’t have trended any differently in their past six contests. The Summerland Steam enter tonight’s contest having won four games in a row and taking nine of the last ten available points, and have begun to close the gap on the division leading Kelowna Chiefs. That gap now sits at ten points, with the Chiefs still having not lost in regulation time.
Summerland picked up a big 3-1 victory on Tuesday night against the Princeton Posse in a game that saw the third period get a little spirited and resulted in a couple of suspensions. They’ll have to play tonight without forwards Cairo Rogers and Sean Wilson. Rogers will be eligible to return tomorrow night in 100 Mile House after a “fighting” major, while Wilson is ineligible until November 3rd due to a 3-game suspension for his goaltender interference major penalty in the final 10 minutes of the contest.
The Knights, meanwhile, have lost six straight games and have been outscored by a 32-17 margin. Their last victory came against the Creston Valley Thundercats by a 5-2 score on October 5th. Despite their 2-10-0-1-0 record, the Knights have some dangerous scoring potential and could explode at any time courtesy of team leaders Jett Saharchuk (16 points), Alec McLeod (14 points), and defenseman Cole Haberlack (13 points). The Knights have also recently made a change in the crease, bringing in goaltender Devin Chapman who was recently released by the Salmon Arm Silverbacks of the BCHL.
The American born right-hander from Colorado Springs, CO got into three contests with the Silverbacks, posting a 3.33 goals against average and .888% save percentage. A former Okanagan Hockey Academy product, Chapman will bring some stability to the crease for the Knights and compliment 16-year old incumbent Austin Madge, also a right hander, to offer quality goaltending for the Knights on a night by night basis.
As previously mentioned, this is the second visit to the Castle for the Summerland Steam this season. They picked up a 6-4 victory on October 6th to simultaneously begin the streaks that both teams currently ride. They’ll need to do a lot of the same things if they want to be successful again, and here are the 3 Keys to tonight’s game:
- JUMP EARLY – This can probably be said for 90% of hockey teams across the country and the world, but the Summerland Steam are infinitely better when they arrive ready to play. It’s important for Summerland, as the road team, to get a good start, get pucks deep into the Knights’ zone and go to work in the corners to retrieve it.
- AIR TIGHT – Defensive mistakes can cost you in a big way at the best of times, but especially it seems they can cost you on the road. Summerland will need to be smart in the defensive and neutral zones, make the high percentage plays and clear pucks on the first attempt if they want to continue their winning streak and stretch it to 5-games. During this 4-game win streak, the Steam have done a great job supporting the puck and each other, moving as 5-man units up the ice and back with everybody being where they need to be when they need to be there. That’s going to have to continue for them. They’ll have to be careful not to get too stretched out through the neutral zone, and work to keep their spacing and gap control in all three zones. They’re at their best when they have 5-men on the defensive side of the puck, no matter the zone, so that should be the goal again in what’s sure to be a tightly contested game tonight.
- BE PREPARED TO WORK – There’s one thing, no matter the record that teams from North Okanagan have done over the years and that’s that they WORK. Every shift, every second, every night they work hard. It doesn’t seem to matter who their coach is or who their personnel in the jerseys are, but the minute the jersey goes over those shoulder pads those players know it’s time to go to work. Summerland will have to match that tonight, and match their intensity if they want to pack that 2 points on the bus with them when it’s time to come home.
Puck drop from Nor-Val is 7:30pm tonight on playfullscreen.com, so join the webcast!