Sitting here on Wednesday and looking back, it wasn’t a banner weekend for the Summerland Steam. After an 8-0 rout of the Princeton Posse the previous Sunday to bump a 4 game losing skid, things were looking up as the Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs embarked on a home and home series this past weekend.

Trailing by 2 points in the standings to start the weekend, the Chiefs came into Friday’s game hungry to make the jump over the Steam in the Okanagan Division, and the Steam were going to do their best to NOT let that happen. Both teams were eager to get their season series started after an extremely tough (and entertaining) 7 game series in last year’s playoffs, and it showed early on. Summerland came out with a purpose, and controlled the play in the first couple of minutes. Steam captain Paulsen Lautard had the best chance, as he was hauled down on a partial break and awarded a penalty shot. He came in with speed, made a good move, but was thwarted by Chiefs’ goaltender Brady Lenardon, who moved to his right to close off the blocker side.

The penalty shot in the first period was the most intriguing part, as not a whole lot more happened and the period ended in a scoreless draw. Both teams had sequences of pressure in the first frame, with Summerland holding the edge in CorsiFor% at 58% despite the teams only combining for 16 shots on net.

Unfortunately, on Friday night, a bad 3 minute stretch in the second period was all Kelowna needed to capitalize for two quick goals. Jaden McNulty would score the first for the Chiefs, a beautiful solo effort that led to beating new Steam goaltender Jake Mullen high glove side to give the Chiefs the lead. Just over two minutes later Jace Woodley would add to the lead, tipping a Kevin Roth shot past Mullen from the slot.

Both goals could have been prevented on the part of the Summerland Steam with a clean pass through the neutral zone, but Kelowna did a great job of getting in passing lanes and clogging the middle of ice. This prevented the Steam access to the offensive zone, and allowed the Chiefs to force the two turnovers necessary to go up 2-0.

Riley Pettitt would pull the Steam within one late in the period, beating Brady Lenardon with a shot on the low blocker side through a bit of a screen. After some good work by both teams in the period, we entered the break with a 2-1 score in favour of the Chiefs, although the Steam led 17-13 on the shot clock.

In the third both teams saw chances at the opposing net, but neither could convert and the Chiefs would take a 2-1 victory in the first of two games on the weekend. In game #2 on Saturday night, Summerland didn’t fare much better. Again, the effort was there, they just couldn’t convert.

On the road you always want to get off to a good start, and much like Kelowna did in Summerland on Friday night, the Steam did get off to a good start on Saturday. They had several chances in the Kelowna end in the first eight minutes of the hockey game, but things started to clog up and slow down after the two teams started taking some penalties.

Dakota Kittle opened the scoring for the Kelowna Chiefs on the powerplay with just over two minutes to play in the first period. Jaden McNulty picked up an assist on the powerplay tally, on a play where Kittle was just trying to push the puck to the slot. Instead of reaching a Chiefs’ teammate, the puck found the back of Summerland goaltender Jake Mullen’s leg and crawled into the back of the net.

The first period would end in a 1-0 lead for Kelowna as the teams combined for just 7 shots on goal. The second period started out with a little more purpose, however, as Kelowna scored two goals in under two minutes to start the period to extend their lead to 3-0. Again, two quick goals against had Summerland in a deep hole that was going to be tough to climb out of.

Keenan Scott would get the Steam on the board just over halfway through the second period to cut the Kelowna lead to 2. Scott’s goal, his first in the KIJHL, was a great shot from the left wing. At 4-on-4, Scott was able to take a pass from Lathan McKinney and get loose down the left wing, making a good shot to beat Lenardon up high.

The Steam were unable to close the gap any further in the final half of the second period, however, despite having a ton of chances in front of the Kelowna net. They carried the strong play through to the third, and converted on a chance just 5 minutes in. The Yukon line, back together for the first time in a couple of games, found themselves with the puck deep down in the Kelowna zone. After a brief cycle, the puck came to the slot where Wyatt Gale had a shot at the net. His shot was stopped by Lenardon, but he and Jarrett Malchow followed up, and Gale ended up burying the rebound to close the gap to 1. That’s as close as they would get though, and the Chiefs skated away with a 3-2 win and sole possession of 2nd place in the Okanagan Division.

Despite the result, once again, Summerland’s effort was good. They were without their captain, Paulsen Lautard, who was a late scratch, and it hurt them. Lautard is a dynamic hockey player who forms one third of one of the best lines in the KI this year of he, Jack Mills and Braden Eliuk, and hopefully he won’t be out of the lineup long.

The Steam will be hard at work at practice this week before going to Princeton for a Halloween date with the Princeton Posse on Saturday night. They will then play host to the Nelson Leafs on Sunday at 2PM at the Summerland Arena.

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