Coming into this past weekend, the Summerland Steam knew they were in tough. With injuries and suspensions mounting, they had to look down the barrel at two divisional rivals that are always tough to play against in the Osoyoos Coyotes and the North Okanagan Knights. With their situation being what it was with six regulars missing, a split would have been just about the most desirable outcome expected.
Going into the Coyotes’ Den is always a daunting task, and with the visitors missing Wyatt Gale, Riley Pettitt, Morey Babakaiff, Everett Scherger, Konsta Jaske, and team Captain Alex Williams, it was a struggle from the start.
In Osoyoos on Friday, as often happens against the Coyotes, Summerland’s penalty parade started early. They would be shorthanded twelve times on the night, and the Coyotes would score FIVE times on those twelve power plays on route to a 5-1 win.
Judd Repole would draw first blood for the ‘Yotes in the first period, before Josh Pilon would help Summerland claw back to tie in what was the ‘Matt Huber Show’ in the first 35 minutes of hockey. The Summerland goaltender stood on his head and thwarted chance after chance from the Coyotes, facing 46 shots on the night.
To end the first period, Summerland’s Jarrett Malchow and Osoyoos’ Austin Cleaver got themselves into a tilt and removed from the game. Normally this wouldn’t matter too much in the scheme of the game, but with Summerland only dressing 15 skaters it weakened their position that much more.
From the start of the second period onwards, it was the Coyotes’ power play that was the only positive. They would score four more times over the course of the final two periods, while Summerland had no answer except to continue to parade to the penalty box. Carter Shannon would score twice, while Colin Bell and the recently returned Ryan Roseboom would also tally on the power play. Coyotes Captain Dan Stone chipped in with two assists, while goaltender Adam Jones stopped 21 of the 22 shots he saw.
After getting picked apart by the Coyotes power play on Friday, Summerland took off for Armstrong on Saturday night for their first visit of the season to Nor-Val. There, the North Okanagan Knights awaited, and they were ready.
From the beginning the pace was fast, the game was physical, and both teams looked ready to roll. After twelve penalty kills against on Friday, Summerland spent significant time on the PK again on Saturday, going shorthanded a total of eight times. Before they got into penalty trouble though, they opened the scoring. Calvin Rout opened the scoring for the Steam about halfway through the first period with his 5th of the season, staking the visitors to a 1-0 lead.
The lead lasted just 3:04 before Brady Marzocco was able to beat Matt Huber and tie things up at 1. Not long after Marzocco tied the game, Knights veteran Drayton Martin notched a power play goal to give the home team the lead, which would hold through the end of the first and majority of the second periods.
Ben Dietrich-Scammel was able to pull the Steam even at 2 with his 5th of the season, on the power play, at 19:40 of the second period.
Again, the tie wouldn’t last much longer than the period break. Just :29 into the third period, North Okanagan’s Dean Whitcomb broke the tie with what would stand as the game winning goal. Summerland made a valiant effort at a comeback late, but Knights goaltender Connor Webb was solid in the victory.
With two losses this weekend, Summerland sees their lead in the division diminish to one point. The Kelowna Chiefs picked up two wins this weekend over Sicamous and Revelstoke to climb over the Osoyoos Coyotes into second place, just one point behind Summerland with two games in hand. The Coyotes got surprised in Princeton on Saturday night, taking a 5-3 defeat at the hands of the Posse on Princeton’s ‘Family Weekend’.
With a third of the KIJHL Schedule complete, the Steam sit in a pretty good spot despite the unfavourable results this past weekend. They have the best record and point total in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference, and are a perfect 7-0-0-0 against the Doug Birks Division.
Inside their division is where they have to improve moving forward, as they’re just 2-4-0-2 against divisional opponents thus far. Summerland is the second most penalized team in the conference (cough cough, Revelstoke) , but have also been the benefactor of the most power play opportunities as well.
Special teams is an area where Summerland had excelled up until the game against Osoyoos Friday night. They have the best penalty kill in the conference at 87.61% (99/113), and the 4th best power play on this side of the Kootenays as well at 18.63% (19/102). Regarding the penalty kill, the numbers are a bit insane. In 15 games this season, the Summerland Steam have given up 14 power play goals on 113 attempts. Of those 14 power play goals against, 8 have come via the Osoyoos power play over two games. That’s 57.14% of the goals given up by the Steam PK, in two games.
In the other 13 games, the PK has given up just 6 goals on 91 opportunities. That’s 93.40% against the rest of the league, which is unbelievably stubborn.
Looking into the numbers and ahead to the second third of the season, there are two obvious areas in which Summerland needs to improve. They’re going to NEED to bring it against divisional opponents, and maybe more importantly, they’re going to NEED to keep those opponents at 5v5.
At 5v5 this team has the ability to be the best not only in the KIJHL, but in Western Canada. They just need to check the emotions, keep the legs moving, and avoid being shorthanded so often in order to do so.
After going through a spat with the injury bug and dealing with some suspensions, they now have some time to restore order. The Steam won’t see game action again until Saturday, October 29th at home vs the North Okanagan Knights. This will give them some time to get some bodies back healthy, run out the remaining suspensions, and restore some normalcy to their lines. It also gives teams like Kelowna and Osoyoos to make up the games in hand they currently hold.
Riley Pettitt, Konsta Jaske, and Morey Babakaiff will all be eligible to return for Summerland’s next game, and there is rumour Wyatt Gale may be a game time decision as well. We’ll see how it all shakes out, but the Summerland Steam are in a pretty good spot at the 1/3 mark of the season, and will look to keep rolling along.