After a long off-season full of change, the Summerland Steam are putting final preparations in place for main camp this weekend at the Summerland Arena. After a 2018/19 season that saw them win 25 games and reach the second round of the playoffs for the 5th straight season, the Steam are poised to come back older, stronger, and more determined than ever. They’ll do so with a new Head Coach, General Manager, and plenty of old and new faces as they look to push for a Cyclone Taylor Cup birth in 100 Mile House next April.
They’ll start this season with a new coaching staff, a new General Manager, and a whole lot of hope after a young team surprised last season. After seven years, over 200 wins, and six straight playoff appearances behind the Steam bench, former Head Coach John DePourcq decided it was time to step away during the off-season as work and family commitments increased. DePourcq was revered during his time for his patience, poise, and commitment to helping young players prepare for either the next level or life after hockey. Whichever they chose, DePourcq was there to provide a steady presence, a helping hand, and the wisdom and experience of once being in the same position.
Ken Karpuk will take over behind the bench as the third Head Coach in Steam franchise history. Karpuk has a long playing and coaching history, including both at the professional and semi-professional level. He brings a hard-work, no nonsense style that (when executed) will allow the Steam to be tight defensively, transition quickly, and be aggressive on the fore-check to create chances in the offensive zone.
He possesses some of the same qualities as his predecessor, but Karpuk will also bring his own experiences, playing style and expectations to a club loaded with speed, grit and skill. Some of those experiences date back as far as 1978 in the KIJHL, when he played for the Creston franchise before moving on to play for the Penticton Knights in the BCJHL.
“The league has come a long way since then,” Says Karpuk, “As a local I’ve had the chance to watch a lot of games and work with a lot of these younger players. I’ve watched them advance themselves into this league, which has been able to endure and succeed for over 50 years. I’ve worked both locally and internationally as a player and coach at many different levels, and believe structure is one of the keys to success. We’ll do our very best as a staff to provide these driven young men with the structure it takes to succeed.”
When asked about the familiarity with his team and the potential returnees he’ll have to work with, Karpuk expressed some excitement about the skill and leadership qualities his potential returnees bring.
“I think that having a good number of returning players that are familiar with what they need to do to be successful is a good thing. The experience and leadership strengths are always welcomed when working with young players. More than half the team is returning and hopefully maturing as individuals and as a group. I’m excited to finally see what we can do.”
Karpuk has selected former Princeton Posse Head Coach Geoff Goodman as an Associate Coach, and feels the experience he brings will help immensely.
“The addition of Associate Coach Geoff Goodman provides the Summerland Steam with unprecedented experience at his role,” Says Karpuk, “I have total confidence in Geoff and extend a latitude for him to work with and help our players be the best they can be and to help them attain their hockey goals.”
With several key pieces set to return including Cody Swan, Cory Loring and Lane French, the Steam should find themselves offensively gifted and defensively sound, barring any jumps to Junior A. Ryan Allen is expected back for a third season with the Steam and will be counted on as a leader both on the ice and in the dressing room. He will be looked upon to provide guidance and protection for what is expected to be a young defense core, including 16 year-old’s Jarrett Watson and the incumbent Tyson Conroy. Conroy will skate with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars in camp this week, so his status remains to be determined.
Eric Scherger will return in goal for his second KIJHL season after an impressive rookie campaign. He and Jared Breitkreuz split duties in 2018/19, with Scherger putting up a 10-11 record, 3.41 goals against average and a save percentage at an even .900%. He really came on in the playoffs, picking up three of Summerland’s four wins to oust the Princeton Posse in Round 1 of the KIJHL playoffs. Scherger was then plagued by an injury that finished his season, but with a clean bill of health he’s ready to take the ball and run to start the season.
“With the changes taking place here this year I feel like it’s a fresh start for everybody,” Said Scherger, “There’s a lot of familiar faces in the room this year and I feel like that’s going to give us an edge to start the season.”
When asked about the role he’ll be asked to play this season, Scherger says he’ll focus on being a good leader and role model for his younger teammates.
“I’m excited to come in here and help out any way I can. Obviously the on ice results are what everybody sees and what most will focus on, but as a returning guy I want to be somebody that anyone in the locker room can reach out to. I was in the same position last year and the vets in the room made it easier for me, so I want to make sure I pay it forward in that way as well. A lot of times if you can take care of that part of things, the on-ice results take care of themselves.” Said Scherger,
All the returning faces for the Steam have made the job significantly easier for first year Steam GM Steve Hogg. He takes over from Mike Rigby, who spent the last seven years with the Steam. Three of those seasons were spent as the team’s GM, and a good on-ice foundation was built during that time.
“There was a lot of good recruiting done here over the past few seasons both by Mike and by John, and I’m very thankful for that because it’s made adjusting to my new role much easier” Says Hogg, “At the same time I’m happy to work with our new coaching staff and support team to put our own stamp on our organization and make it the best that it can be. Top to bottom I think we’re going to have a really competitive hockey team here as well as a top notch volunteer staff, so we’re excited for things to come.”
Camp kicks off for the Steam this weekend at the Summerland Arena, August 24th and 25th. They’ll play four preseason games against divisional opponents, a pair of home and home sets with Kelowna and Osoyoos on back to back weekends leading into the KIJHL’s Opening Weekend on September 13th. These games will give Steam players and their new coaching and management team a pretty good idea of where they stand heading into their home opener on September 13th at home against the Kelowna Chiefs.