Josh Pilon during his debut with the Summerland Steam November 20. Photo via Kyle Sunderman

On a night where the cause was more important than the hockey inside the Summerland Arena, the Summerland Steam picked up wins in both departments. The hockey was important, and ended in a 6-1 victory over the Kelowna Chiefs, but more importantly the Steam and IGA Summerland teamed together to collect food to fill the shelves at the Summerland Food Bank.

Carts upon carts of food were donated by the nearly 300 people in attendance at the Summerland Arena on Friday night, and they were rewarded with a big effort from the home team. In the first five minutes of the game it looked like we might be in for a fun night, as our first whistle didn’t come until nearly 5:30 into the game.

As great as five continuous minutes of action was, there wasn’t a whole lot of ‘action’ to speak of. Both teams were having trouble making a clean break through the neutral zone, causing turnovers from both sides. Once the bakery closed in the middle of the ice though, we were in for a treat. The Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs don’t get along, plain and simple, but on this night it was a clean and physical hockey game for the most part.

Summerland was able to open the scoring just prior to the halfway point of the first frame. After Steam goaltender put the puck ‘on a tee’ for Lathan McKinney to take out of the zone, McKinney found Paulsen Lautard cruising through the neutral zone. The Summerland captain was able to use the Kelowna defenseman as a screen and beat Chiefs’ starter Brady Lenardon under the blocker with a hard wrister from about 50 feet. Lautard’s 10th of the season, assisted by McKinney and goaltender Jake Mullen, gave the Steam a 1-0 lead that they’d never look back from.

Kelowna would make a solid attempt at a pushback, and got an opportunity on the very next shift. Thankfully, Jake Mullen was there to commit absolute larceny on Chiefs forward Josh Kobelka, who found himself all alone with the puck on his stick and Mullen down and out. As Kobelka went to lift the puck into the empty net, Mullen pushed off the right post and sprawled out with the glove to keep the puck out.

In my opinion it was the turning point of the game. If Kelowna gets that goal it’s a 1-1 tie halfway through the first period. Instead, Summerland came back the other way and made their chance count.

A little under 5 minutes after the Mullen robbery, on the power play, we saw the official arrival of new Steam forward Josh Pilon. Pilon, who came from Revelstoke earlier this week, took a pass from Paulsen Lautard in the slot. He used superb peripheral vision to see Jack Mills at the back door, fed him the puck, and Mills made no mistake for his 12th of the year as he lifted it into the top of the net over a sprawling Lenardon.

Summerland would go to the break carrying that 2-0 lead, and come out in the second looking to build on it. This team looks vastly different than it did a month ago on the ice, and I think it has to do with the goaltending they’ve been getting from Jake Mullen and Matt Huber. The team is much more confident knowing that they’re going to get a save when they need it, and it allows them to attack a little more. That’s what we’ve been seeing during this stretch, and it was much of the same last night.

The Steam would have chances in the early half of the second period, but weren’t able to beat Brady Lenardon. Likewise, Kelowna couldn’t find a way to beat Jake Mullen. His highlight of the second period came when there was a scramble in front of his net. A Kelowna forward was able to dig the puck out of the pile and thought he had an open goal, but Mullen’s goal stick and blocker came from out of nowhere to make the save.

Shortly after another Mullen robbery, Summerland ended up on the power play again and converted thanks to the captain with his second of the night. Paulsen Lautard collected his 2nd of the night and 12th of the season off the rush after taking a pass from Josh Pilon at the blue line. Pilon made a real smart play to cut back and get the puck to Lautard, who was in a much better shooting position, and he made no mistake blasting it underneath Brady Lenardon. Jack Mills would collect the second assist on the home team’s third goal (and 2nd power play marker) of the night.

Braden Eliuk would then extend the lead in short order, just :54 later, picking the puck off a defender in the high slot and depositing it into the net. Eliuk’s third of the season would extend Summerland’s lead to 4-0 and put them in full control with just less than half the game to go.

The 4th goal of the night would also spell the end of the night for Brady Lenardon. Josh Tetlichi, who spend training camp with the Steam, would come on in relief for the Chiefs.

Tetlichi got the Chiefs through to the end of the second, but Summerland kept coming early in the third. Riley Pettitt, who was involved in a little bit of literally everything on this night, found himself in on a partial breakaway after a brilliant touch from Cody Egilson. Pettitt made no mistake, making a backhand-forehand move to beat Tetlichi on the blocker side for his 8th of the campaign. Josh Pilon would pick up his third assist of the night on the Steam’s 5th goal after making a good breakout pass through the middle to Egilson.

After the Steam made it 5-0 they looked to start going into ‘trap mode’ and just nurse the game home, but would get one more to cap off the night. After a thunderous hit from Brogan Lautard on the right wing boards, Cole Williams rung the puck around the boards to Wyatt Gale. Gale made a beautiful one touch pass across the ice to Jarrett Malchow, who was off to the races down the right wing. Malchow, much like Paulsen Lautard in the first period, used the Kelowna defender as a screen, wound up and wired a slap shot past Tetlichi to make it 6-0 Steam. Tetlichi got a big piece of what ended up being Malchow’s 6th of the season, he just couldn’t get all of it as it squeezed through his pads and into the net.

Luke Kalenuik would get the Chiefs on the board courtesy of a late power play with just over 6 minutes to play. After scrambling in his crease and making 2 absolutely brilliant saves, Steam goaltender Jake Mullen tried to swat a puck away with his blocker while moving from left to right. When he did, he hit Kalenuik with the puck, and it dropped right at his feet for Kalenuik to bang home. The goal, Kalenuik’s 7th of the year, would come unassisted and be the only goal Kelowna scored on the night in a 6-1 loss.

I can’t overstate Mullen’s worth in this hockey game, because even though the score was 6-1 this didn’t feel like a 6-1 game. Kelowna could have easily been tied or ahead after each of the first 2 periods, but Mullen stood tall for the Steam and picked up his 5th victory since joining the Steam in 7 starts. With 31 saves, his Goals Against Average drops to 1.58 and his Save percentage goes up to an incredible .938% since joining the team on October 23rd.

As for the newest new guy, Josh Pilon, he had an incredible night of his own. He picked up 3 assists, but that wasn’t necessarily the best part of his night. I was far more impressed by his work ethic, speed, and vision which LED to the 3 assists than the 3 assists themselves. He’ll be a very useful weapon for Head Coach John Depourcq and the Summerland Steam moving forward.

It was great to see Summerland’s power play do some damage and capitalize on their opportunities on Friday night. They’ve been working hard on their power play and the addition of Josh Pilon to that group seems to make a difference.

A lot of ‘hockey people’ are of the mind that your power play has to be dangerous (like Kelowna’s) to succeed. I don’t necessarily agree, but I think the power play has to be a deterrent for other teams. The power play has to be good enough that the other team is at least worried about taking a penalty, and that helps keep the clutch and grab down and creates more opportunity at 5v5. For Summerland so far this season that hasn’t been the case, but they’re coming around and eventually it’s going to get there.

A couple of Steam players had great nights BESIDES Jake Mullen last night, as Paulsen Lautard (2G, 1A) and Josh Pilon (3A) both tallied 3 points. Jack Mills picked up 2 (1G, 1A) to bump his team leading point total to 28 for the season. Despite not picking up any points on the night, I thought Brogan Lautard was arguably Summerland’s best defender on the night, and pasting guys to the boards like he did in the third period is only going to solidify my thinking.

Summerland will take Saturday off and go at it again on Sunday afternoon when the Grand Forks Border Bruins come to town for their one and only visit of the season. They’re a much different team than the team that Summerland beat 7-2 and outshot 41-23 on the second night of the KIJHL Regular Season. They had a 6 game win streak snapped on Friday night in North Okanagan, and will take on Beaver Valley at home tonight before coming to Summerland tomorrow afternoon for a 2PM start.



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