It all has to end at some point. For the Summerland Steam, the best season in franchise history came to an end with a trip to 100 Mile House to face the Wranglers in Game 5 this past Monday night.
In their 20th game (including final 3 regular season games) in 30 nights, 6 of which went to OT or 2OT, the visitors still came up with the game’s first goal. For the 15th time in 18 playoff games, the Summerland Steam got the upper hand by opening the scoring after a great start.
The Steam were able to beat Wranglers’ goaltender Zane Steeves with a long shot from Alex Williams. Josh Pilon and Michael McEachern did some good work down low to get the puck out to Williams, who let go of a long shot from the left point that found it’s way through traffic. This capped off a great start for the Steam, who looked to be dead set on making a mistake by a third party that ended Game 4 controversially a moot point. They did a good job to get pucks deep behind the Wranglers’ D, and were generating chances despite a lack of shots on net.
Unfortunately, that’s where the positives stopped for the Steam in Game 5. They would go to the intermission with the lead, but couldn’t hold off the Wranglers in the second period. Ryan Friesen would draw the Wranglers even with a power play goal that saw him find a loose puck and poke it through a pile (that Matt Huber was on the bottom of) to tie the game at 1. Huber argued his case to the officials, but was of course unsuccessful in his efforts to plead his case.
Nick McCabe would then fire a long shot on net that would beat Huber via deflection and stand as the game winner. After Summerland failed to clear the zone three, yes three, times, McCabe found a loose puck up near the blue line and fired it towards the net. It ticked off a Steam defender, and beat Huber on the deflection to put the Wranglers up 2-1.
Friesen would then add another power play goal late in the second to cap off the scoring and effectively put the ‘nail in the coffin’ of the Summerland Steam. Ironically, the guy who spent training camp and part of exhibition season with the Steam would be the guy to notch two goals in the game that ends their best season ever.
The visitors would attempt a comeback in the third, but couldn’t really generate much in the way off an offensive push. They were out of gas. Plain and simple. After 1090 minutes and 4 seconds of playoff hockey that spanned nearly 2000 KM on a bus, 17 games, 6 OT games, and only 27 days, they were finally out of gas.
It was a hell of a run.
Most people weren’t sure if the Summerland Steam would get through Round 1 of the KIJHL Playoffs against the Kelowna Chiefs, and they almost didn’t, but they came together as a group to get the job done.
Then came the ‘Knockout heard round the world’, as the Steam ousted the Osoyoos Coyotes, who many had already anointed the KIJHL’s Okanagan Shuswap Conference Champions. A squad from Summerland that had beaten Osoyoos just once in their last 16 regular season meetings, was able to put down the regular season Okanagan Shuswap Conference Champs in six games.
These are the kinds of things that bring a team and a community together. These types of things build not only character, but a strong bond between 24 young men that will last forever. For the first time, the Summerland Steam are Okanagan Division Playoff Champions, and they did it with a total team effort that saw them climb over even the most unbeatable of obstacles.
Led by Paulsen Lautard and Jack Mills, the team’s only two 20 year old players, the Steam accomplished things this season that were firsts in franchise history. Lautard set the Steam’s all-time record for goals recorded during the regular season with a career total of 59 on January 3rd. He’d end up with 66 and holds the record to himself. Mills, on the other hand, set the franchise record for points in a single season with 67. He tied the record with two assists on February 19th against the Princeton Posse. He then broke the record the following night with an assist against the North Okanagan Knights in Armstrong, and pounded home his 30th goal and 67th point of the season on it’s final day, February 21st, on home ice to set the record for good.
For Lautard and Mills the ending to this series is especially bittersweet. Having been here three seasons and two seasons respectively, the Steam’s two 20-year-olds have helped the franchise reach new heights. With their on-ice performance, off-ice dedication and leadership the two have helped shape the Steam into a proven winner and a positive influence on the community of Summerland. Their teammates, coaches, and Steam fans adore them both, which says all you need to know about the two veteran forwards. They have the ability to electrify, particularly when playing together, and were a lot of fun to watch ‘do their thing’ over the past couple of years.
As for the rest of the Steam, they deserve every bit of recognition they get. They had a heck of a season, the best in franchise history, and 22 of them will be eligible to return next year. Here’s a quick list of some of the accomplishments as a team this season:
- 2nd place finish in Okanagan Division. 4th top two finish in five seasons.
- Most wins in a regular season in franchise history with 34.
- Tied for most points in a regular season with 70 (2013/14)
- Beat Kelowna and Osoyoos to reach the Okanagan Shuswap Conference Final for the first time.
- New Franchise Leader for Total Goals in Regular Season: Paulsen Lautard, 66
- New Franchise Leader for Single Season Points: Jack Mills, 67
- New Franchise Leader for Shutouts in a Single Season: Matt Huber, 7
The Steam wrapped things up with a pretty bow on Thursday night with an awards banquet at the IOOF Hall in downtown Summerland. Stay tuned for a list of winners as well as a season ending wrap up.