With four games left in the regular hockey season and a spot in the playoffs, the Summerland Steam coaches and players are gearing up for some tough competition.
The Junior B team has earned second place in the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference: Okanagan Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
The Steam have a record of 27 wins,16 losses, two ties and three overtime losses.
The regular season concludes on Feb. 14 and the division semi-finals begin on Feb. 20.
The Steam will face either the Kelowna Chiefs or the Princeton Posse.
Gregg Wilson, co-owner and general manager of the team, is optimistic about the playoffs.
“We’ve got a great group,” he said. “We’re very lucky to have four good lines.”
Last year, the team qualified for the division semi-finals and faced the North Okanagan Knights. The series went to seven games, with the Knights winning and advancing to the finals. This year, the Knights will not be in the playoffs.
Wilson said the Steam has changed considerably since the end of the last season. Of the 23 players on the Steam’s roster this year, only seven were on the team last year.
A significant number of former Steam players have moved on to other hockey leagues.
“We really take pride in moving our players to a higher level,” Wilson said. He added that in the last two and a half years, nine players have advanced to Junior A or NCAA levels of hockey.
Despite the player changes, Wilson said the team has become a strong, cohesive unit.
“They’re a really tight group,” he said. “They’ve stuck together through thick and thin.”
He added that coach John DePourcq has worked well to develop the team.
At present, Summerland has a strong defence and ranks third in the league in goals against.
The team also plays against some of the strongest teams in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
“We probably have the toughest division as far as the strength of the teams on the ice,” Wilson said.