It’s almost playoff hockey time for local hockey fans.
The different leagues in the Kelowna area will start their post-seasons this week, or early March. And no other local team will start their playoff push with as much on the line as the Kelowna Chiefs, who finished first in the KIJHL this past weekend.
The Chiefs lost only two games in regulation time this year, and finished with a 43-2-1-2 record with 89 points.
The team has been sporting the “Straight Outta Rutland” mentality this season, and the fans have embraced it.
“It feels like old-time hockey in there with the old benches,” said Brent Stewart on the Chiefs’ fan experience at the Rutland Arena. “Everyone’s really excited about the Chiefs. (There’s) a strong sense of community in Rutland with the Chiefs, and the fact they’ve done well is an added bonus and has added to the excitement.”
The Chiefs will start their post season as the number one seed, and push towards winning the league championship, the Cyclone Taylor Cup, for the first time. The Chiefs start their playoff run against the Osoyoos Coyotes Feb. 26 and Feb. 27.
“We needed to finish at the top of the league because there were other teams so close,” said game day manager Alex Draper, “It was a good motivator for the guys to clinch (first place) in the second last game of the year.”
While the Coyotes finished near the bottom of the KIJHL, Draper knows they’ll still be a challenge for the Chiefs.
“They’re goaltending will be the toughest part. Their goalie keeps them in games,” said Draper.
While Rutland’s team may have a smaller fan base than some of the competition, the community has embraced the different type of experience the Chiefs provide for their fans.
Andrew Knops, who’s been working with the Chiefs for five seasons, starting as a water-boy, sees why the team gets its fans excited.
“The guys have been great this year, it’s really been amazing. They work hard and they gel together,” said Knops. “They’ve brought a lot to Rutland, and really bring with community together.”
Whether it’s the old-school vibe of the arena, the hard-hitting players, or the proud fans, the Kelowna Chiefs are sure to continue their embrace of the Rutland community through the playoffs and beyond.
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