It's the first-ever meeting between the Kelowna Chiefs and Castlegar Rebels tonight at the Complex (7:30 PM). Of course, the two clubs have played on several occasions when the Chiefs were based in Chase, but the franchise relocated to the Rutland Arena over the off-season.
Both teams are on mini-streaks heading into tonight's matchup. Castlegar has won 5 straight games including a 4-1 victory last night in Spokane, while the Chiefs have won their last four including a wild 8-6 barnburner yesterday evening in Nelson.
The Rebels can inch one step closer to clinching the Neil Murdoch division tonight. They lead Beaver Valley by 13 points (with a game in hand), and trail Fernie by 6 points (with three games in hand) for the overall Kootenay Conference lead. They'll have to go at it tonight without both Ryan Aynsley and Spencer Brodt. They have both been suspended for separate checking from behind major penalties.
Last Meeting: You'd have to go all the way back to November 13, 2009, when the Rebels got an OT winner from current UFV Cascade (BCIHL) Andrew Shaw to win 6-5 at Chase's Art Holding Arena.
Our Opponent: Kelowna (21-18-1-2, 2nd Okanagan Division) is coming off an 8-6 win in Nelson last night that saw former Leafs Dane Rupert and Landon Andrusiak combine for seven points. Andrusiak leads the team with 49 points, while Colten DeFrias (who had a hat-trick last night) is second with 35. 16 year-old defenseman Turner Lawson has been turning heads. He has 12 points from the back end, and sits second on the team with 118 penalty minutes, though if new Chief (and former Prince George Spruce King) defenseman Jeremy Wiebe had been with the club all year, I'd wager he'd be near the top too. He has 32 PIMs in 2 games thus far. The Chiefs' two goaltenders, Jordan Bytelaar and Conor Barrie, have virtually split their appearances this year, the elder Bytelaar played last night.
Webcast: As always, join us for all the action at kijhl.ca beginning at 7:30.
In the Press Box: The Chiefs are without forward Brandon Briere and defenseman (and former BV Nitehawk) Brett Naka, while Castlegar (as mentioned earlier) will have to make do without Aynsley and Brodt tonight, but both are eligible to return Tuesday. Curtis Pereverzoff tells me he's hoping to get back in the lineup soon too.
Out of Town: Plenty of action around the league tonight with 7 games in all. None bigger (from our standpoint) than in Nelson, where the Leafs host Beaver Valley (7:00, NDCC Arena). The Leafs could move to within 5 points of the Nitehawks with a victory tonight. Also, Kimberley hosts Columbia Valley. With a win, the Dynamiters could eliminate the Rockies from post-season contention.
Tue. Jan. 25 @ Nelson, 7:00 PM
Fri. Jan. 28 @ Kimberley, 6:30 Pacific
Sat. Jan. 29 vs. Princeton, 7:30 PM
Sun. Jan. 30 @ Spokane, 2:00 PM
Tue. Feb. 1 vs. Beaver Valley, 7:30 PM
Bits & Bites: Fans in Chase can get a bit of a sense of what their new KIJHL franchise will look like here. The Heat begin play in 2011-12, as does the as-yet unnamed team from Summerland. I chatted with Jonathan Bowman, the man bringing Junior B hockey back to that community, listen to the interview here. Nelson and Creston Valley won't be heading to Whitehorse after all. The Nelson Daily's Bruce Fuhr reports the trip has been post-poned because the WHL's Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Blazers will be heading north as part of Hockey Day in Canada the same weekend. The Leafs and Thunder Cats will play a home-and-home series the weekend of February 11th and 12th instead.