Penticton Minor Hockey Association alumni will play key roles for the Summerland Steam in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League this season.
The Steam opened the new season last weekend with a pair of wins over 100 Mile House Wranglers (4-3) and the Kamloops Storm (6-2). Against 100 Mile, rookie Cairo Rogers scored his first junior B goal, then assisted on another. Sam Jones, an alumni of the Okanagan Hockey Academy, picked up an assist. Against Kamloops, second-year player Morey Babakaiff scored, while Jones and Rogers collected an assist each.
Along with them are Kaleden’s Liam McLaren and Bailey Tamminga. Steam general manager Mike Rigby said they do their best to have local players, as long as they can play.
“It’s great to have local players, but the question is, who are they going to replace that’s on the current roster and are they good enough to play at this level?” he said.
The lone Summerland player, Jared Breitkreuz, a goalie, was dealt to the Wranglers to get a chance to be a starter. The Steam’s No.1 goalie is Matt Huber, who coming into the season had 42 wins in 66 games. As reported by the Trolley Talk Blog, coming to Summerland is 18-year-old Nick Nordstrom. However, Rigby said on Wednesday he wasn’t sure if Nordstrom will report and was working on a deal to flip him for two defenceman. Backing up Huber will be former OHA goalie Brandon Peacock from Quesnel.
What Rigby likes of Rogers is that he’s a hard worker.
“He lacks a little bit in size (is five-foot-six, 190 pounds), as far as kind of the typical player one looks for,” says Rigby, “but he works his buns off. I think under (coach) John’s (DePourcq) tutelage he will develop a whole lot this year and be a pleasant surprise. He knows in order to play at this level that’s what he has to do. He is committed to doing that.”
Jones, who has played in the B.C. Hockey League with the Penticton Vees and Cowichan Valley Capitals, approached the Steam about playing. Last season he played professionally in England with the Milton Keynes Lightning, but what he brings is maturity as a 19-year-old and leadership, which is why he was named captain.
McLaren surprised Rigby and DePourcq during training camp. McLaren is gritty player, which Rigby described him as being “strong as an ox.”
The Steam return to action Friday, hosting the Revelstoke Grizzlies at the Summerland Arena at 7:30 p.m. The Steam then hit the road for Sicamous on Saturday. Jones said a key to success will be playing disciplined.
“We need to stay out of the box. We’ve done pretty well so far,” said Jones. “If we are playing even strength, I think we can take any team in the league.”