A key ingredient to the success of the Summerland Steam is their camaraderie.
“Everyone is really for one another and that’s the kind of group you have to have, tight knit,” said Steam forward Jordan Boultbee, after he and his teammates clinched the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Okanagan Division last weekend with a 3-1 win over the Kelowna Chiefs at Rutland Arena.
That closeness comes from the mix of players on the Steam roster. The Steam have imports who play key roles, such as goalie Brett Huber of Calgary, or Shane Bennett from California, but the Steam battle KIJHL opponents primarily with local players. Nine are from Penticton, three from Summerland, four from Kelowna, three from Calgary, two Americans and from Midway, Paulsen Lautard.
Boultbee said the entire group wants to do well for each other.
Rylan Sideroff, who played his minor hockey in Summerland, loves playing for his hometown team.
“I love getting the support from everyone I know,” he said.”Everyone knows who I am and calling me out on the streets and saying good game.”
Sideroff, who spent two seasons with the Okanagan Hockey Academy before embarking on his junior career with the Steam last season, said the players’ familiarity translates to on-ice success.
“A good bunch of guys gelling together,” said Sideroff.
Josh DaCosta, a Penticton minor hockey product, likes being part of the group and having so many guys that grew up together.
“I think it’s an awesome way to spend our last year,” said DaCosta, 20, who has played his three-year junior B career with the Steam. “I think it’s helped bring the guys together.”
DaCosta is enjoying a career year. The defenceman surpassed his offensive totals from the last two seasons (35 points in 75 games) in 52 games this season, with 37 points leading all Steam blue liners. He loves playing with friends and family in the Summerland Arena. He too believes their success comes from knowing each other most of their lives.
“We’re pretty comfortable,” said DaCosta, who played one game as an affiliate for the Penticton Vees this season. “Just a lot of chemistry on the ice. Living at home keeps it comfortable for everyone.”
It also helps there is pride playing for a home crowd.
“Especially near the end of the year when we go on our little hot streak, it’s been nice having everyone come out,” said DaCosta.
In the Steam’s 8-4 win against the Osoyoos Coyotes at home Saturday, the Steam attracted a crowd of 335.
“It was awesome,” added DaCosta, as he and his teammates prepare to face the North Okanagan Knights in the first round of playoffs that began Tuesday. “Probably one of our better crowds of the year. Everyone’s been really loud, creates support.”
Olli Dickson, who spent the first two full seasons of his KIJHL career with the Kimberley Dynamiters before joining the Steam last season, said their success also comes from players knowing their role, especially on defence. The Steam shutdown teams and strong goaltending with Brett Huber and Darren Hogg, saw them allow 152 goals against, third lowest in the league.
Captain Daylan Robertson added it has been important to have balance.
“It’s nice that anyone out there can score goals,” said Robertson who finished with 24 goals and 56 points on the Steam’s top line with Kienan Scott and Lautard, who also finished with 56 points. “It’s great that we have depth and options for up front.”
Steam coach John DePourcq has loved working with his group and that they are able to help the local players. He said the hard part was making sure the local players were good enough to help the team succeed.
“All the local players we have are very good players,” said DePourcq. “They play hard for one another and they are a great group of kids. It makes it fun to have them all on the same team.”
Summerland products Nelson Hurry, Sideroff and Kendell Wilson play important roles.
DePourcq described Wilson as a strong, hard hitting forward, who brings a bit of everything to the table.
“He plays well and does whatever it takes for the team to have success,” said DePourcq. “Good two-way hockey player. Great on face-offs.”
At 6-5, 240 pounds, Hurry makes opponents think twice about going near the Steam crease.
“He gives his best all the time,” said DePourcq, adding that Hurry stepped up when the Steam had injury problems on their blue line.
The injuries to the defence prompted DePourcq to use Sideroff as a defenceman more than a month ago. That move has turned out brilliantly.
“He has been one of our best defenceman,” said DePourcq. “He’s been playing fantastic. He can play in any situation.”
The Steam opened their series against the Knights on Feb. 25.
DePourcq said the Knights are a team that works hard and receives strong netminding.