Sunday night was one of those special nights if you’re a Summerland Steam fan. After beating the Osoyoos Coyotes just once in their last 16 regular season meetings, the Steam would cap off the Okanagan Division Championship with a convincing 6-4 victory for their third victory in a row.
It was an outcome that nobody expected, Summerland beating Osoyoos, but the Steam showed they were for real and the regular season means nothing when it all comes down to the playoffs. They showed that straight away with a 5-0 trouncing in Game 1. The Coyotes then showed some pushback and took Games 2 & 3 by 6-2 and 7-4 scores, and all of a sudden they had some confidence and their swagger back.
In game 4, Summerland was able to pull off a 5-4 OT win thanks to a Jack Mills goal in the final minute of the first OT. That was the ‘TSN Turning Point’ on the entire series, as Summerland would button down the defensive zone and win 4-3 in Game 5, before coming home for Game 6 with a chance to close it out. That’s where we sat heading to Sunday night, and the Steam knew that if they played the same way in Game 6 as they had in Game 5, they’d be successful in Game 6.
It wasn’t all rosy at the Summerland Arena on Sunday night, as the Coyotes jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and looked to have a little jump to start the game. Rainer Glimpel opened the scoring on a power play just pripr to the 7 minute mark of the first period. The Coyotes captain took a pass from Dan Stone and beat Matt Huber five-hole to give the ‘Yotes the lead.
Judd Repole would then add to it near the midway mark of the period, locating a loose rebound out in front of the Summerland net to push the Coyotes’ lead to 2-0. This effectively took all the air out of a full Summerland Arena and silenced the biggest crowd of the season. The Summerland Steam had trouble in the first period, looking a little sloppy and out of position. After the Coyotes went up 2-0, it looked like the Steam were just going to try to get to the end of the period down 2-0 and regroup in the intermission.
The Yukon Line had other ideas, however, as a good breakout allowed them an opportunity in the final minute of the first period. Wyatt Gale didn’t record an assist on Summerland’s first goal of the night, but he was an imperative piece of the puzzle. He made a great little play on the left wing boards in the defensive zone to push the puck to the middle for Keenan Scott. Scott then moved out of the zone and found Jarrett Malchow on the right wing side. He had a step on a defenseman, and fed a puck back to the middle for Riley Pettitt, who was on his way to the net. Pettitt did great work to beat his defenseman to the puck, and beat Brett Soles on the blocker side to cut the Coyotes’ lead in half.
The goal in the final minute gave Summerland some life, and in the second period they went to work and took the game over completely. A four goal second period gave Summerland an insurmountable 5-2 lead, and they did a fantastic job of locking down and allowing nothing in front of Matt Huber for the final 40 minutes.
Braden Eliuk would tie the game at two six minutes into the second period thanks to a cheeky little back pass from Jack Mills. Malchow then added a power play tally to give the Steam the lead, taking a feed from Braden Eliuk at the point and beating Brett Soles on the power play. The Malchow goal was then followed promptly by Jack Mills hammering a puck into the top corner to make the score 4-2. After getting in on a breakaway thanks to a great stretch pass from Paulsen Lautard, Mills couldn’t beat Soles. The Coyotes’ goaltender flashed a little leather to stop the Steam’s regular season leading scorer, but that wasn’t where the play stopped. The puck popped loose to the corner, where the Steam went back to work. A good forecheck from Lautard and Braden Eliuk freed up the puck, and Eliuk found Mills in the slot. Mills had all the time in the world as he found himself open in the slot, and he one-timed the pass into the top corner above a sprawling Soles.
Matt Huber would then make a save on a shorthanded breakaway from Bobby Larue just after the Mills goal made it 4-2. On the power play, the puck popped loose off the Steam defense and Larue found himself all alone. He made a quick move and tried to shoot five-hole, but Huber closed it up just in time to make the stop. That in itself was the game saver in my opinion, and Summerland allowed the Coyotes nothing after that point.
Wyatt Gale would add another in the final minute of the second, making the score 5-2 and allowing Summerland to go into defense first mode for the remainder of the game. Summerland did great work to minimize the amount of chances the Coyotes had in the back half of the game, and did well to keep pushing forward as a five-man unit.
Summerland would go to the locker room with their 5-2 lead, feeling pretty comfortable with where they were at. In the third, they continued what they did in the second period and it showed. They didn’t allow much, moved up and down the ice as a five-man unit, and allowed Matt Huber to see everything until the final few minutes.
The four goal second period b Summerland ended the night for Coyotes’ starter Brett Soles. Stephen Heslop, not seen in game action since the 2nd period of Game 4, would step in for the third period. He made a couple of saves on Steam partial breakaways by Michael McEachern and Jack Mills to keep the score within reach for the Coyotes.
The third period would yield no scoring until the closing minutes. With over 5 minutes remaining, Coyotes Head Coach and GM Ken Law pulled Heslop for an extra attacker in a last-ditch effort to get some offense. The Coyotes would then receive a power play, but Adam Jones would dump a puck into an empty net on the ensuing face-off to round out Summerland’s side of the scoring and make it 6-2. Braeden Tuck and Matt Adams would add late goals for the Coyotes to pull the score to 6-4, but it wouldn’t be enough.
The Summerland Steam are 2016 Okanagan Division Champions. That’s fun to say. They were finally able to exercise their mental demons and beat those Osoyoos Coyotes that had their number for the last three seasons. The Coyotes are a great hockey team, but the Steam showed that even the greatest of teams can be beaten if you play them the right way.
Summerland is a good hockey team too, and they surprised a lot of people with their series win and Okanagan Division title. They didn’t surprise me, though. When these twenty three young men play to their potential, they’re as good as any team in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. They’ve got an uphill battle to climb, but if they keep pushing and playing the way they played against Osoyoos, they’re not going to be easily stopped.
Speaking of those Coyotes, I’d like to take a second and thank the Coyotes organization for another great season and another great rivalry. All the people in the Coyotes organization that I’ve come in contact with over the past couple of years have been some of the best people in the KIJHL, and they make spending time around this league and this division a whole lot easier and a whole lot more fun.
I’d also like to congratulate the Coyotes veteran players, particularly the 20-year-olds, who graduate from Junior hockey after one of the best years in Osoyoos Coyotes history. Rainer Glimpel, Bobby Larue, Stephen Heslop, Brett Soles and Steele Anderson were a huge part of what the Coyotes accomplished this season, and finished strong with good performances during the playoffs.
For the Summerland Steam, it’s now on to the Okanagan Shuswap Conference Final against the 100 Mile House Wranglers. They only had one day to prepare, as an off-day Monday is all they’ll get before taking to the ice Tuesday night at the South Cariboo Rec Centre in 100 Mile House. Puck drop will go at 7PM.