Summerland Steam Goaltender Jake Mullen defends his crease against Kelowna Chiefs F Dakota Kittle during Summerland’s 2-1 win Dec 18. Photo: Steve Dunsmoor; Dunsmoor Creative

For 59 minutes and change on Friday night, the Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs played what I consider to be a ‘Game of the Year’ candidate. Both teams were fast, physical, and most importantly they were actually pretty civil with one another. For the majority of the night the pushing and shoving, jawing, and fisticuffs we usually see between the Steam and the Chiefs was put aside in favour of good hockey, and it showed what these two teams do when they focus on the game at hand.

Right from the start the action went back and forth, with chances at both ends and the two goaltenders getting lots of early touches on the puck. Both Summerland’s Jake Mullen and Kelowna’s Josh Tetlichi were up to task early, stopping everything thrown their way in the early going.

It looked like we were going to hit a milestone early in the first period, as Keenan Scott sent a 150 foot breakaway pass to Steam captain Paulsen Lautard. Lautard was in alone on Kelowna’s goaltender Josh Tetlichi, who stopped the initial shot. As he squeezed to hold the puck though it popped loose, and Lautard was able to pick it from the pile and put in the net. Unfortunately, as he did so the referee blew the play dead so the goal wouldn’t count.

Lautard, who’s been a bit snakebitten of late, is still chasing the Steam’s Franchise Record for goals. He sits tied with former teammate Dylan Burton with 57 career regular season goals for the Steam.

As things started to settle in, and after the Lautard chance, both teams received a power play to jump start their offense. First it was Summerland who gained the man advantage when Josh Johnston was whistled for holding.

The Steam didn’t do much with the power play, but were able to convert as Johnston stepped out of the penalty box. After a good first pass from Lathan McKinney and a good rush from Wyatt Gale, Michael McEachern was able to connect for his 3rd of the year. Coming down the left wing, Gale did a great job to get loose and make a drop pass for McEachern, who placed a bullet of a wrister up top over Josh Tetlichi to give Summerland a 1-0 lead.

After the Steam went up 1-0, it was the Chiefs’ turn with the PP. While Kelowna pressured with their power play, the Steam bent but didn’t break. A good PK formation led to shots from the outside and an easy few saves for Jake Mullen in the Summerland crease.

After 1 the Summerland Steam had a 1-0 lead, and headed to the second period in good shape. In a game that saw them start without three of their top four scorers it was important for Summerland to get out to an early lead, and they did a good job of doing that.

In the second period though it was much different. The Steam were still good, but Kelowna was better. The Chiefs took the play to the Steam and got in the kitchen of Steam goaltender Jake Mullen. After working at it for several minutes, the Chiefs were finally able to break through thanks to some good work from Josh Baird.

Baird, the Chiefs’ leading scorer, did some good work to maneuver through the Summerland defense and get a shot to the net. The initial shot sailed high, but Baird followed up to keep the play alive behind the net. The puck eventually came to the side where Chiefs’ Captain Ryan Lawson was able to sweep a puck past Jake Mullen to tie the game at 1.

From there it looked like we were destined for OT, to be honest. Neither team was interested in taking any chances in the late stages of the second period or early in the third. The play went back and forth without any danger, mostly being played in the middle 100 feet of ice.

After Summerland killed a couple of penalties incurred by newcomer Scott Robinson early in the period, they were able to get on the board with just 3:04 to play. The goal came courtesy of Wyatt Gale, who popped his 9th of the season off a body in front to give his team the lead. Lautard and Cole Williams would draw assists on what would stand to be the game winner.

From there, things finally got a little ugly. As Kelowna tried to press for the tying goal, they got some good chances at the Summerland net. Jake Mullen was up to task, ending up with 34 saves on 35 shots in 59:49 of work. He only played 59:49 because with :11 remaining on the clock, things got real.

As the puck came to the Summerland crease Mullen fell on top of it for a whistle. As everybody converged on the net, Dakota Kittle was taken into the Summerland goaltender by a Summerland defender. Kittle had gone in on Mullen earlier in the game on his own, so there might have been some history there, but from the bottom of the pile Mullen started swinging. Jonathan Lee then came in and (accidentally on purpose) came down on Mullen’s back as he was trying to fight his way out of the pile. Things escalated from there, Mullen swung his blocker wildly a few times, connected with three or four shots, and was assessed a match penalty and ejected from the game.

Matt Huber would come on in relief, but wouldn’t have to face a shot in the final :11. Huber will figure to get the majority of the work early after Christmas, as Mullen’s match penalty will likely carry a 3 game suspension, if not more. I will update this post once we hear of further discipline from the KIJHL.

As the clock wound down, Luke Kalenuik of the Chiefs was also assessed a game misconduct for checking from behind after extending his arms into the numbers of a Steam player on the boards believed to be Cole Williams. Kalenuik will miss the Chiefs next contest, which goes tonight i Kamloops.

Summerland is now officially on holidays. Most of the players will head home to their families for about 9 to 10 days. They’ll return to action on December 29th at the Summerland Arena when the Osoyoos Coyotes make their 2nd visit of the year.

Happy Holidays from Trolley Talk!

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