Wyatt Gale forces the puck to the net Sunday vs Nelson. Photo: Kyle Sunderman

Wyatt Gale forces the puck to the net during the second period of a 2-1 Steam victory Sunday vs Nelson. Photo: Kyle Sunderman

After 2 consecutive losses to the Kelowna Chiefs on October 23 and 24, the Summerland Steam headed into Halloween weekend knowing they let a couple slip away. Both games against Kelowna were winnable hockey games, as were 4 of the other 5 losses they suffered in October. They were doing the right things, and just not getting the right results.

That all changed this past weekend, as the Steam found a way to secure all 4 points available to them with a 4-0 win over the Princeton Posse on Halloween night, and a hard fought, chippy 2-1 victory over the Nelson Leafs on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday night, the Steam headed to the Similkameen Valley for just the second time so far this season, and came away with a 4-0 win.

Braden Eliuk, Wyatt Gale, Matt Sokol, and Paulsen Lautard did the scoring for the Steam in the victory. Summerland, who has been dreadful on the powerplay early in the season, even managed a powerplay goal to help their cause.

Matt Huber pitched his second shutout in as many starts, both against the Posse, making 25 saves for the victory. His other shutout was a goose egg on October 18th when the Steam beat the Posse 8-0.

After the victory on Saturday night in Princeton, Summerland pushes their season series lead on the Posse to 3-0, remaining undefeated while outscoring the Posse 16-2 in those three games.

On Sunday afternoon the Steam knew their opposition was going to be very tough. They may only see the Nelson Leafs twice a year every other year, but the rivalry is as hot as they come and it showed.

Summerland got off to the start they wanted, getting on the board early thanks to Cody Egilson’s 4th of the season just 3:35 into the hockey game. Egilson took a pass in front of the net and was allowed to follow up on his own rebound to beat Nelson goaltender Joe Barton, who was stellar on Sunday afternoon.

Barton kept his team in the game in the first period, as the road wary Leafs were outshot 12-5 in the frame. Nelson, coming off a win against the North Okanagan Knights on Friday and a 6-3 loss to the suddenly surging Kelowna Chiefs on Saturday night, had some trouble getting their legs under them in the first period on Sunday.

In the second period though, things were a little different. Summerland still had their jump and took the action the Leafs, but the Leafs had some pushback and forced Steam goaltender Jake Mullen to make a few saves.

Near the end of the period, with the Steam still leading 1-0, Mullen was taken down in the crease by a slew-foot by Nelson’s Samuel Weber. Play went on, though it took place with referee Edwin Weightman looking directly at Mullen as it happened and he went down in a heap. As I said on the broadcast, it was a less than banner night for the officiating crew, as there could have been SEVERAL more penalties called on both sides.

Mullen stayed down for a moment as play moved up the ice and was eventually stopped by a good square save from Joe Barton in the Nelson Leafs crease. Mullen skated the pain off, but spent an ample amount of time in the corner one knee to collect himself before he could continue.

The Steam would get to the break with a 1-0 lead, and would extend in the latter half of the third thanks to a good effort from Jarrett Malchow and Wyatt Gale. Braden Eliuk started the play in the neutral zone, and Wyatt Gale did good work to get the puck loose down the left wing inside the Nelson zone. Malchow was there to pick the puck up, and found the stick of Gale heading to the net for a 2-0 Summerland lead on Gale’s 6th of the season and second in as many nights.

Tyler Garcia would get the Nelson Leafs on the board with 6:16 to play, but that was as close as the Leafs would get. After Eammon Miller made a sweet move to get in alone on Jake Mullen, he was hauled down with no penalty call indicated. We thought on the broadcast it should have been a no-doubt penalty shot, but the referee didn’t agree. Levi Hulston found the loose puck and was able to send it back to the point. Max Daerindinger put it on the net and the rebound came straight to Tyler Garcia, who was unchecked and had the whole net to shoot at.

After the Nelson goal, Summerland was able to lock down their defensive zone with relative ease and cruise the rest of the way for a 2-1 win. This win for the Summerland Steam is definitely considered a ‘character win’, and one the needed badly against a good team from Nelson.

Summerland captain Paulsen Lautard was particularly noticeable in the two games this weekend, but not for the reason he usually is. Sure, he notched 2 points against Princeton on Saturday night, but it was what he was doing away from the puck that was particularly impressive. With and without the puck, Lautard can be a force to be reckoned with, and this weekend he was. That rubbed off on his teammates, as they brought their lunch pales and went to work to get 4 points and keep pace with the Kelowna Chiefs and division leading Osoyoos Coyotes.

Summerland’s next game will be a big one, next Friday night at the Summerland Arena against the Kelowna Chiefs. It will be a 7:30 start, and Joel and I will be on for pre-game at 7:15.

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