The injury bug. It happens to every team, every season, and right now it’s wreaking havoc on the Summerland Steam. Coming into this weekend’s play the Summerland Steam had the most points in the KIJHL, sitting in first place in their division. Granted, the Osoyoos Coyotes were just 4 points back with three games in hand, the Steam had been rolling through September to the tune of a 5-0-0-2 record.
October seems to be a trying month for Steam teams of the past, last season going 4-7 in the second month of the season. This October didn’t get off to a much better start, with the Steam losing their first of the season in regulation to the Kelowna Chiefs by a score of 3-2 on October 1st. Josh Kobelka notched the winner for Kelowna on a breakaway in the 2nd period, while Riley Pettitt and Wyatt Gale scored for Summerland in the game.
After that game against Kelowna is when the injuries began to mount for Summerland. Over the course of that game against Kelowna and a Tuesday night 4-2 victory over North Okanagan, the Steam lost 5 regulars from their lineup due to injury.
5 guys from your lineup in the span of 2 games is a big number, but it’s an especially big loss when those players are the guys who do the majority of your offensive damage. That’s the case for the Steam right now as Wyatt Gale, Jarrett Malchow and Steven Fiust are three of the five injured bodies.
Jeremy Hite and Alex Williams are the others, and although they haven’t provided much offence to start this season, they’re big losses for their own reasons. Hite has established himself as a good penalty killer and shot blocker recently, and plays well on a line with Steven Fiust and Josh Pilon. Williams, the Steam captain, is equally as important on the back end. He provides a steady presence and a calmness to him that is valued by his teammates and coaches.
Riley Pettitt has been tapped with taking care of the ‘C’ while Williams heals, and he’s done a great job thus far. Last Tuesday he collected two goals in a 4-2 victory over the North Okanagan Knights, and he followed that with 3 assists vs the Chase Heat in a come from behind 5-2 victory on Friday.
Pettitt led the charge, but it took a whole team effort to get the job done after trailing 2-0 heading to the third period in that game. It took a 4 goal comeback, plus an empty netter to get the job done as Josh Pilon, Cole Williams, Scott Robinson, Everett Scherger, and Braden Eliuk helped Summerland secure a win with 5 unanswered goals in the third period.
A ‘score by committee’ approach is always what you want to see from a team, especially early in the season, but it was great to see Summerland battle back to take that game on the road in Chase on Friday. Unfortunately for Summerland, however, they used all their scoring luck and good bounces in that game, and didn’t save any for a Thanksgiving Sunday matinée with the Princeton Posse.
For the second time in as many meetings, Princeton opened the scoring. Just 4:27 into the game, Tristyn Olson found himself sprung on a partial breakaway by a pass from Drew Carter down the right wing side. Olson was able to notch his 6th of the season by making a good shot to beat Steam starter Matt Huber to give the visitors a 1-0 advantage.
The score would hold despite Summerland having 5 power plays and 41 shot attempts in the first period and a half. Princeton did a good job to get sticks in lanes and block or deflect a majority of Summerland shots before they got to Posse goaltender Chandler Billinghurst. Of the 29 that did get through to him on the night, only one snuck by.
It was a power play goal from Riley Pettitt with 1:17 remaining in the second period, assisted by Scott Robinson and Cole Williams, to tie the game at 1. Pettitt’s team leading 9th goal and 15th point of the season came off a shot from the left circle that ramped up a Posse stick and under the bar to even the game.
The score would stay even until the latter half of the third period, when Tristyn Olson notched another. On a broken play in the Posse zone that saw Josh Pilon hooked off the puck and then hauled down, the Posse were able to turn the puck back through neutral ice to Olson who had another clear cut breakaway. He made no mistake, going to his forehand to beat Huber and give the Posse the lead.
The Steam bench was irate with referee Dustin Minty, who had a quick conversation with his linesmen before upholding the call and cementing the 2-1 Posse lead. The lead would hold, despite Summerland’s best efforts, and the Posse would put the nail in the coffin of the Steam with an empty netter, from Olson again, to finish things off.
Summerland now sits with a record of 7-2-0-2 through 11 games, good for 14 points and a 2 point lead in the division. They’ll get some much needed rest this week, not playing again until Friday when they host the same Princeton Posse at the Summerland Arena at 730pm.
The break should allow them to get at least a couple of bodies back and should also allow the newest member of the team, defenceman Anthony Olivierio, to get settled with the team. Olivierio, acquired in the middle of last week from the Castlegar Rebels in exchange for Future Considerations, was pressed into game action immediately. He looked good in his first pair of games for Summerland, and should do well as a depth piece to Head Coach John Depourcq’s defence corps.
The team expects they could get both Jeremy Hite and Steven Fiust back prior to next weekend when they face Princeton at home and travel to Revelstoke on Saturday night. It is still to be determined when to expect the return of Wyatt Gale, Jarrett Malchow, and Alex Williams.