The Summerland Steam get a good dose of home cooking while the Osoyoos Coyotes start with a road trip when the puck drops on the 2019-20 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League regular season Friday, Sept. 13.
Each of the 20 KIJHL teams will play a 49-game schedule wrapping up on Feb. 22. Once again, the top four teams in each of the four divisions qualify for the playoffs.
The schedule, released late last week, will see the Steam begin with four straight home games. Summerland welcomes the 2018-19 KIJHL regular season champions and Okanagan Division rivals Kelowna Chiefs to the Summerland Arena Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
The Steam also host North Okanagan Knights Sept. 14, Grand Forks Border Bruins Sept. 21 and Castlegar Rebels Sept. 22 (a 2 p.m. matinee) before launching a home-and-home series against arch-rivals Osoyoos, with their first road game Sept. 25 at 7:35 p.m. at the Sun Bowl Arena.
The return game is Sept. 27 in Summerland.
Osoyoos opens with road games Sept. 13 at the Columbia Valley Rockies and Sept. 14 against the Kimberley Dynamiters before playing their home opener Sept. 20 at 7:35 p.m. against Grand Forks. The Coyotes visit KIJHL and Cyclone Taylor provincial junior-B champions Revelstoke Grizzlies before the home-and-home with Summerland.
The Steam and Coyotes will each play four pre-season games, including a head-to-head, home-and-home Sept. 6 in Summerland and Sept. 7 in Osoyoos.
The Steam hold training camp Aug. 24-25 before playing a home-and-home with Kelowna Aug. 30 at the Rutland Arena and Aug. 31 in Summerland.
The Coyotes open camp a week later and host Princeton Posse in their other two pre-season tilts Sept. 3 at 7:35 p.m. and Sept. 8 at 6 p.m.
Junior-B teams typically experience plenty of on-ice turnover each season and the Steam will also have a new look off the ice.
Ken Karpuk takes over from long-time head coach John DePourcq behind the bench, while Steve Hogg replaces Mike Rigby as general manager.
The Steam are coming off a solid 25-20-2-2 regular season that saw them finish second in the Okanagan Division. The Steam beat Princeton in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Kelowna in the second round.
For Osoyoos, Dean Maynard begins his first full season as GM and head coach after taking over on an interim basis late in the 2018-19 season from Mark Chase.
It was not a good season for the traditional powerhouse Coyotes. After three straight Okanagan Division pennants, Osoyoos slumped to 17-29-2-1 to barely make the playoffs before getting swept by Kelowna in the first round.
To view the complete schedule, visit kijhl.ca.
ICE CHIPS: The KIJHL’s 100 Mile House Wranglers will host the 2020 Cyclone Taylor Cup in April. The B.C. championship event features the host team, and league champs from the KIJHL, Pacific Junior Hockey League and Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Revelstoke took last year’s title in Campbell River - the third in four years and 22nd in 52 years overall for the KIJHL.