DECEMBER 27, 2018
SUMMERLAND, BC – Seemingly every year, the KIJHL Holiday Break seems to sneak up on most of us. Alas, here we are, and for the Summerland Steam the break lasted twelve days. They broke after a December 14th loss, 4-2 at the hands of the North Okanagan Knights that saw Summerland jump out to a 2-0 lead before watching as the Knights came back to score four unanswered goals.
Summerland’s Cody Swan helped the team out to a 2-0 first period lead with a goal (15) and an assist in the first period, while newcomer Lane French notched a pair of assists in his first period as a full-time member of the Steam. Liam McLaren (10) scored the other goal for the Steam as the buzzer sounded on the first period and they led 2-0.
Vineet Kaila led the charge for the Knights with a trio of assists in the final two periods, while Jett Saharchuk (19) drove in the dagger with just 1:11 to play to break a 2-2 tie. Alec McLeod (16) would add an empty net goal in the dying seconds to close out scoring. Cameron McKenzie (7) and Ty Tippett (1) added the other goals for the Knights while Austin Madge picked up his 9th win of the season making 25 saves, while Summerland’s Eric Scherger suffered defeat while stopping 28.
At 17-11-1-2, the Summerland Steam have exceeded the expectations set out for a young hockey team learning the ropes of junior hockey as the unofficial ‘first half’ comes to a close. They sit 2nd in their division, third in their conference and are the only team to beat the Kelowna Chiefs, largely considered the best Junior B team in Western Canada, in regulation time.
They’ve made some additions since the start of the season, bringing in the likes of Mitchell Gove, Kaden Moravek, and Lane French to supplement a squad that possesses speed, skill, and a little bit of grit to make them tough to play against. They’ve scored the 3rd most power play goals in the KIJHL behind only Kimberley and Kelowna, and have jumped from 15th to 7th in the rankings of power play percentages since November 2nd.
In that span, they’re 8-4-0-1 in 13 games, and have solidified themselves as the second seed in the Okanagan Division. They lead the third place Osoyoos Coyotes by eleven points, and look poised to clinch a playoff spot sometime in January.
They’ve become a team that’s flush with offensive talent, work ethic, and ‘sandpaper’ to string together some wins, and that’s what they’ve done and will look to continue to do as the calendar turns to 2019.
The Steam will start their post-Christmas schedule in a way that is neither enviable or familiar. Most guys who play junior hockey haven’t been in what’s considered a “morning game” in years, and the Steam will come back from a two week layoff with two of them in a row.
The KIJHL Showcase kicks off today in Kamloops, and runs through Saturday afternoon, December 29th. The Steam drew one of the short straws, apparently, as they’ll play the Grand Forks Border Bruins at 8am on Friday, and the Fernie Ghostriders at 10am on Saturday.
Their first test, the Grand Forks Border Bruins, have seen mixed results this season playing in a very tough division. They sit third in the Neil Murdoch Division, and have been very much up and down all season long posting a 13-16-1-1 record in 31 starts this season. They score A LOT, but they also give up A LOT. They’ve scored 124 times, fourth most in the KIJHL, but they’ve given up a league high 140 goals in their 31 games so far.
The ‘run and gun’ type style is something the Steam will have to look out for, and ensure they’re tight in the defensive zone. If they are, it’ll create them some opportunities to move the puck up ice with numbers and give them some offensive chances.
The Steam will see a familiar face when they hit the ice against the Border Bruins in former Steam forward Riley Smoler. Smoler, 19, started the 2017/18 season with the Steam before being traded to the Border Bruins for Cory Loring. Smoler has recently returned to the Border Bruins, suiting up in three games including Thursday’s showcase game against Revelstoke.
After their early morning foray on Friday, they’ll have to do it all over again Saturday against the Fernie Ghostriders. This time at 10:00am, the Steam will have to be on their game early once again if they want a pair of points for the bus ride home. Good starts are always key, but will be especially important in early games that players aren’t used to OR comfortable with.
The Riders sit third in the Eddie Mountain Division behind the Kimberley Dynamiters and Columbia Valley Rockies. At 16-10-1-3, the Riders have to be considered a ‘Comeback Story of the Year’ candidate in the KIJHL, and a feel good one at that. The Riders spent the majority of last season playing out of Sparwood after a tragic accident at the Fernie Memorial Arena forced its closure on October 17, 2017.
They were finally able to return to begin the 2018/19 schedule, and have taken a strong hold in the middle of an incredibly difficult Eddie Mountain Division. They’re led by a balanced, veteran forward group and a defence that’s tough to crack. They get solid goaltending as well, and surely play the rugged, physical style it takes to win games in arguably the league’s most volatile division.
For Summerland, both games this weekend will test not only their prowess on the ice and within their systems, but their mental prowess as well. Preparing for start times like 8:00 and 10:00 am isn’t an easy thing to do, and it’s going to be more important than ever to remember their systems, play the game with speed and tenacity and make the simple plays.
Both games are available on playfullscreen.com and will be called by Kelowna Chiefs Play-By-Play man and my good friend, Justin McCartney. The “home game” for the Steam will be the first since October of 2015 and just the second since September of 2013 that I haven’t been able to attend, but it’s for the best reason.
My wife, Emily and I are pleased to announce the birth of Jackson Stephen Henderson Hogg, born on December 23rd at 5:37pm.
📸 Ceiligh Tummon| Life & Love Photography
Happy Holidays, and enjoy some early morning Steam hockey these next two days!