Jack Mills skates up ice with North Okanagan Knights’ Defender Layne Green during a 3-2 Summerland victory on November 24, 2015. Photo: Kyle Sunderman

For a while on Tuesday evening, it looked like 9 wins in a row wasn’t going to be something we could talk about on Wednesday morning. The Summerland Steam were matched up against a North Okanagan Knights team on Tuesday night that is MUCH better than their point total (15) for the season to date is. They work hard, the hit hard, and they don’t go away easy and they come at you hard.

They proved it, coming out early in the game and establishing pressure inside the Summerland zone. Jacob Mullen started in net for the Steam, and had to be sharp in the first period to keep his team from getting down a goal. Summerland had their fair share of chances as well, but none beat Knights’ goaltender Daniel Paul until the 2:28 mark. At that point in the game Steam captain Paulsen Lautard, who had been thwarted on two breakaways already, got in alone and beat Paul with a backhand shot to put his team up 1-0.

Lautard’s then team leading 14th of the year was assisted by Jack Mills, who made a ridiculous pass to Lautard through the neutral zone to spring him behind the Knights’ defense.

Though Summerland left the first period with a 1-0 lead on a nice goal from Paulsen Lautard, the no-doubt highlight of the period was a fight between Summerland’s Calvin Hadley and North Okanagan’s Dallas Keller. After a hit on the right wing boards at the North Okanagan blue line, there was a mutual agreement to shed the mitts between the two combatants. Before anyone could blink, Hadley had Keller’s helmet off and nose (presumably) broken, and the fight was over. The fight pumped up the crowd, and left a trail across the blue line from the scene of the fight to the exit door at the Knights’ bench.

Other than the fight early, and the Lautard goal late in the period, the rest was pretty ‘ho-hum’ as far as pace was concerned. Both teams had a few chances, the Knights outshot Summerland 11-10, but we headed to the second with the Steam holding a 1-0 lead.

There looked to be ‘runaway potential’ in this game early in the second period. Paulsen Lautard picked the pocket of a Knights’ defender, while shorthanded, and fed Mills in the slot who fired his 15th over top of Daniel Paul. Mills’ goal was Summerland’s 7th shorthanded goal so far this season, and looked like it could give them the springboard they needed to run away with the hockey game.

North Okanagan had other ideas, however, as just 9 seconds after the Mills tally, Patrick Nicholson answered on the powerplay. Nicholson, stationed at the right point, took a pass from the left wing wall and wired his 3rd of the season past Steam goaltender Jake Mullen to cut the Steam lead to 1.

Ryan Moon would then tie things up for the Knights with his 3rd near the midpoint of the second period. Moon took a pass from Ryland Chernomaz in the neutral zone and was able to ‘dance’ a defender before beating Jake Mullen to tie things up at 2.

The score would stay that way through the end of the second period, and scoring would pick back up again for the final time courtesy of Jack Mills, again.

With just over 5 minutes gone in the third frame, off an own zone face-off, Jack Mills would get his opportunity. Mills found himself with room to skate through the neutral zone after a pass out by Braden Eliuk. He and Pettitt found themselves on a makeshift 2-on-1, and Mills kept and shot. The puck found it’s way past Daniel Paul and THROUGH the net, and out the other side. It caused mass confusion inside the arena, but the linesman who was up covering the play signaled goal emphatically and immediately. Mills also threw his arms in the air thinking it went in. Personally I thought it went wide on the original goal call, but the call stood and Summerland took a 3-2 lead.

They’d hold the lead all the way through to the final buzzer, taking a 3-2 victory to the bank for their 9th consecutive win. Jake Mullen made 26 saves on 28 shots, and held the Steam in it early AND late to secure the victory.

Summerland will now take back to the practice ice this week before attending the Summerland Festival of Lights or ‘Light Up’ on Friday night. They’ll then travel to the desert on Saturday night to play the Osoyoos Coyotes. Look for a preview on Thursday or Friday ahead of that massive tilt on Saturday night.

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