It’s becoming a recurring theme for the Osoyoos Coyotes — win a bunch of regular-season games, then falter in the playoffs.
Despite winning five-of-seven KIJHL Okanagan division regular season titles, including the last three, the Coyotes have only advanced out of the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference once — and that was in 2010-11 when the Osoyoos Junior ‘B’ hockey club won it all.
The Yotes hope to end that streak as they embark on the 2017-18 campaign, opening training camp this afternoon at the Sun Bowl.
“I live by the motto every day is a new day,” said Head Coach Ken Law. “What happened last year is in the past.”
The team, however, will have to overcome some bitter playoff memories if it’s going to erase the creeping blackwash it’s unable to win when the chips are down.
After going 37-8-1-1 to win a third straight Okanagan Division pennant last spring, the Coyotes swept North Okanagan and Summerland, and led the best-of-five series against the Chase Heat 2-0.
Then, in what can only be described as Twilight Zone-worthy, the Yotes dropped a pair of overtime contests in Chase, surrendering tying goals with three seconds remaining in Game Three and just one second remaining in Game Four.
Even then, the Coyotes could have salvaged a Game Five victory to advance to the league championship series, but fell 3-1 at home.
“I’d say we were pretty good in the playoffs (last year),” said Law. “We swept two pretty good teams and had Chase on the ropes. The Gods just weren’t with us last year.”
As many as 14 of his Coyotes will bring last year’s memories with them. How that translates into leadership this season remains to be seen.
Back for another season are forwards Colin Bell, Judd Repole, Hunter Johnson, Austin Cleaver, Connor Onstein, Sam Reinbolt, Carter Robinson, Evan Della Paolera, Bryson Cecconi, Jackson Glimpel, defencemen Cody Allen, Ryan Allen and Colton Rhodes and netminder Liam Aiken.
They, and a fistful of Coyote hopefuls, will get down to business this afternoon.
Following a 3 p.m. registration, players will undergo some fitness testing then hit the ice for a pair of practices this evening.
Team Watson practices at 7:30; Team Poole follows at 8:45.
The squads will play a pair of games Friday — at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. — then head to Smitty’s for a meet and greet pasta buffet.
Training camp continues Saturday with another intra-squad match-up at 9 a.m., some on-ice game prep for players selected for an exhibition match that evening and three-on-three play for other players sitting out.
Saturday evening at 7, the Coyotes will host the Princeton Posse in the first of back-to-back exhibition games.
The camp continues Sunday with yet another intra-squad match in the morning and a second exhibition match against the Posse, this one in Princeton at 7 p.m.
Monday, team selections will be finalized and the Coyotes will move into the dressing room.
The club opens the regular season Sept. 8 in Chase. The first home game is scheduled for Sept. 22 when the Yotes host the Kamloops Storm.
For fans of this storied club, however, the regular season is just a warm-up. The real test begins in February 2018 with the KIJHL playoffs.