The Summerland Steam is riding high in the standings – and so are their division rivals the Osoyoos Coyotes.
“Just like everybody else – you hope to have the best regular season you can so you set yourself up for home ice advantage come playoff time,” said head coach John DePourcq.
Neither Summerland or Osoyoos has to worry about missing the post season, but the club to finish the season with more points gets home-ice advantage if the two teams meet up in the second round of the playoffs.
Taking a look at his opponent’s success, DePourcq said Coyotoes coach Ken Law does his job well and has been with the club for years, which causes other players to take notice.
“Once a team starts winning everyone wants to play there. That winning attitude continues on,” he said. “He’s going to prepare his group very similar to the way we do. It’s about staying healthy, get some bounces go your way, have some good luck on your side and make sure you’re ready come playoff time.”
The Steam reached the semi-finals of the playoffs last season after defeating the Coyotes in the division finals. Fourteen players from last season remained on the roster this year.
“We have the potential to go a long way and we’re working hard for it,” DePourcq said. “We’re in a solid division (Okanagan Division). Osoyoos is always strong and Kelowna is having a great season. And we can’t count out Princeton and North Okanagan – we have to be on when we play against them or they’ll steal one. I’ve done this long enough to know you never get cocky or arrogant.”
DePourcq, who’s coaching the team for his fifth season, is a Summerland native born and raised. Before taking the reigns of head coach, he was a Junior A hockey player in Penticton, and his son was also the Penticton Vees.
“It’s nice to come back, play full circle.”
While most players on the Steam came from around the Okanagan, much of their top talent was imported from Whitehorse, Yukon. Jarrett Malchow, Riley Pettitt and Wyatt Gale all came from that community, and they’re all among the top-five leading scorers on the team.
“Two or three years ago we had a bunch of them come to one of our spring camps,” he said.
“Obviously we liked the way they played. And those boys that originally came to the team enjoyed it enough to finish their careers in junior hockey with us. “It’s been great to have those northern boys here with us.”
Although there are 20 teams in the KIJHL and they all face each other during the regular season, each team only competes for a playoff positions against their division rivals. As of press deadline on Wednesday, the Steam were leading the division with 34 points after 23 games, though the Coyotes are only two points behind and have played two less games.
The Steam played at home on Tuesday night against the North Okanagan Knights, defeating them with a score of 2-1, netting both goals in the third period.
Their next game is in enemy territory on Saturday, taking on their rivals the Osoyoos Coyotes at 7:35 p.m.
Summerland’s next home game is Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. against the Kelowna chiefs.