On what was the penultimate weekend of the KIJHL Regular Season, the Summerland Steam were looking to continue building good habits in their two games last weekend. Coming into the weekend winners of two straight, the boys from the South Okanagan tripped up the boys from the North Okanagan to the tune of a 3-0 shutout on Saturday night. Jack Mills notched three points (1g+2a) in the victory over the North Okanagan Knights that saw Matt Huber collect his 7th shutout of the season. The 18-year-old from Calgary, AB, now has a share of the league lead, tying him with Kimberley Dynamiters G Tyson Brouwer.
In that game Huber made 28 stops, backing Summerland to the 3-0 victory. Jack Mills (29), Josh Pilon (7), and Keenan Scott (2) would score for the Steam and extend their win streak to 3 heading into a Sunday afternoon matinee with the Neil Murdoch Division leading Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
In that game on Sunday afternoon at the Summerland Arena, the Nitehawks were the better team in the first period, and staked themselves out to a 4-1 lead after a period. Defensive miscues cost Summerland the first period, and put them in a hole they just couldn’t quite dig out of. Keillan Olson and Jake Yuris would stake the Nitehawks to a 2-0 lead just 8:00 into the game, both beating Steam starter Matt Kostiw on blown defensive coverages. Calvin Hadley would reply for Summerland on the power play near the midway mark of the period, blasting his 4th of the season past Nitehawks starter Tallon Kramer. Kramer would go on to be very, very good in this hockey game, but got beat in the first by the long Hadley shot through traffic.
The Nitehawks would then get their two goal lead back on a delayed penalty with 3:27 remaining in the frame. Devin Nemes would be the recipient of a great back-door feed from Devin Ghirardosi, and he made no mistake guiding the puck into the empty cage to restore the Nitehawks two goal lead.
They’d cap their scoring with just over 1:00 remaining in the first period thanks to Dylan Heppler. Heppler managed to strip the puck off a Summerland player in the neutral zone and find Jake Yuris cross-ice. Yuris dumped the puck into the Summerland zone, where it eluded Kostiw, bounced off the end boards, and jumped away from two Steam defenders into the slot. There, a waiting Heppler was able to pound the puck five-hole and give the Nitehawks a 4-1 lead.
The second period was much different, and Summerland looked alive from the beginning. They’d do well to control the puck possession game for the remainder of the contest, as they were able to battle back to a score of 4-3 late in the third period, but were unable to get the game tied in the dying seconds. Jarrett Malchow and Paulsen Lautard would score for the Steam in the final 4:00 of action, but that was all they would get. Tallon Kramer made a couple of very big saves late to keep the game from being tied when the final buzzer sounded.
Summerland will finish the regular season this coming weekend with three games in three days against Princeton at home on Friday night, North Okanagan IN Armstrong Saturday, and the Knights again on Sunday afternoon, February 21st.
They’ll have ONE one day off (yes, I know, right?) and then go to work in their first round playoff series. They’ll start on Tuesday, February 23rd with a home date with the Kelowna Chiefs in Game 1 of the Okanagan Division Semi-Final.
For the second year in a row, the Steam and the Chiefs will meet in a series that could potentially go 7 games in 10 days. Last season it was Summerland coming out on top in a Game 7 that was an instant classic, with Jack Mills returning from a broken orbital bone to score twice and lead Summerland to a 2-1 victory.