Summerland off to Steam-ing hot start, face Coyotes next

The Summerland Steam are undefeated to start the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season.

THE SUMMERLAND STEAM have their first meeting with the Osoyoos Coyotes at the Summerland Arena on Friday

THE SUMMERLAND STEAM have their first meeting with the Osoyoos Coyotes at the Summerland Arena on Friday

Trolley Talk Blog

To say the Summerland Steam are off to a good start to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season would be a bit of an understatement.

After two wins this past weekend over Revelstoke and Sicamous, the Steam are 3-0 and have scored 17 goals. They’ve looked mighty good doing it, and are showing early signs that they’ve got the ‘make-up’ to contend for a division championship.

They dispatched the reigning Western Canadian champs, 100 Mile House Wranglers, on opening night to the tune of 7-2, and backed that up with back-to-back five-goal efforts in convincing wins over Revelstoke and Sicamous this past weekend.

The most convincing part of the wins over Doug Birks Division opponents wasn’t the scores themselves, but that every forward has at least a point, and 11 players have tickled twine. Not surprisingly, the only player to not register a point is team captain Alex Williams, who with 15 points in 107 regular season KIJHL games isn’t known to light up the scoresheet. ‘Grizz’ is, however, doing what ‘Grizz’ does, and that’s be steady on the blue line, a steady voice in the dressing room, and a no-nonsense type of captain.

The Yukon line (Wyatt Gale, Jarrett Malchow and Riley Pettitt) is all over teams with their forecheck, and they’re putting up the points to prove it, while Calvin Hadley, Cole Williams, and Brogan Lautard have been rock solid on the point alongside Alex Williams. Goaltending’s been good too. Matt Huber is steady as always, and newcomer Matthew Vernon had a solid debut in Sicamous on Saturday night.

The Steam knew coming into the season they would have a strong team on paper, but on paper really means nothing until you start to play games. Head coach John Depourcq and his staff along with general manager Gregg Wilson and director of player personnel Mike Rigby have done a great job in surrounding the 13 returnees with quality players that can make plays and create loads of depth.

They went out and acquired Kelowna native Steven Fiust from the Revelstoke Grizzlies in the offseason, as well as plucked Kelowna talents Ben Dietrich-Scammell (Okanagan Rockets Major Midget League), Jeremy Hite and Mathew Alcorn (Kelowna midget T1) to help fill the holes vacated by outgoing players. They also looked locally, finding Morey Babakaiff (Penticton midget T2) to play alongside Devon, Alta. native Everett Scherger and returnee Calvin Rout on a line that’s caused their fair share of damage so far in the early part of this season.

On the ice the Steam are fast, physical, and have a finishing ability that hasn’t been matched so far. That, however, is going to be put to the test on Friday night when the desert dogs from the south pop in for their first visit. The ’97 South Series’ is something that is always an entertaining event. The eight-game series between the Steam and Coyotes gets heated quickly, and after playing 30 games against one another since the start of exhibition season in 2014/15, it’s likely to pick up right where it left off last year in Game 6 of the KIJHL’s Okanagan Division Final.

For the first time in a long time, the Coyotes have more rookies, 12, than they do veterans, 11. The rookies outnumber the vets 12-11, which is something that is a little different from previous seasons.

Head coach/GM of the Coyotes, Ken Law, and his team recruit so well that being young isn’t a detriment. They’ve got enough veteran leadership to help bring the rookies along, and they’re going to be dangerous as ever. Like Summerland, they’re also 3-0. They’ve scored 11 times while only surrendering three, and like Summerland, are led by a core of veterans who know how to navigate the start to a KIJHL season and lead by example.

The likes of Colin Bell, Judd Repole, Carter Shannon and team captain Daniel Stone, all returnees, have combined to put up 19 points. Much of that damage has come on the power play, clipping already at 22 per cent. As a matter of fact, 36 per cent of Coyotes’ scoring this season has come on the power play, which is something Summerland is going to want to look out for.

It should be a clash of Okanagan Division titans on Friday night at The Station, so get your tickets early and come and enjoy great hockey.