The Summerland Steam continue to roll. Expected at the start of the season to be one of the top teams in the KIJHL’s Okanagan Shuswap Conference, the boys from Summerland just keep putting wins together. After having a 5 game winning streak snapped in Chase on November 12th, Summerland played an ‘extended weekend’ set this past weekend. Nearing the halfway point of their season, the Steam have persisted through the injury bug already, and managed to keep winning while they did it to maintain first spot in their division and conference.
Back to full strength and healthy, the Steam continued to look solid this past week. They started by picking up a 4-3 victory against Kelowna on Friday and then they scrapped their way to a 2-1 win over the North Okanagan Knights on Tuesday night. They maintain a 2 point lead on their division and conference, but have played more games than most chasing them.
Wyatt Gale scored twice on Friday night against the Chiefs, while Josh Pilon and Ben Dietrich-Scammel added singles. Ryan Pereverzoff scored twice for the Chiefs and Brett Witala also tallied.
The Steam and the Chiefs always get after one another when they play, and Friday night was no exception. Kelowna’s Dakota Kittle was ejected from the game just minutes into the second period after he was assessed a major penalty for a hit to the head of Steam Forward Riley Pettitt. Pettitt left the game and did not return.
Minutes later, gloves were shed between Kelowna’s Tyler Love and Summerland’s Steven Fiust. After the way Love acted during last year’s playoff series I was a little surprised it took until the middle of the second period for someone to challenge him, and I kind of expected it to be a player who played in the series in March.
In any event, the pair were assessed matching fighting majors and game misconducts and sent to the showers.
Down two centres already Summerland could hardly lose a third, but they did late in the third period. With the game tied at 3, Summerland’s Braden Eliuk was hobbled by a Brad Marchand – like ‘low bridge’ from Kelowna forward Elliott Pickrell.
It was the third time in the game Pickrell made an attempt to low-bridge (or ‘clip’) a Summerland player, and in that particular instance he hit his target, Eliuk’s knees. It was far enough behind the play that no penalty was called and it was missed by the broadcast camera, and Eliuk had to be helped off the ice by his teammates and team trainer Jessica Slivka. Pickrell had already been suspended 5 games for clipping this season, early in the year when he made the same type of hit on Princeton’s Craig Thompson.
Ben Dietrich-Scammel would break the tie soon after the Eliuk injury, and Summerland would go on to win 4-3.
Dietrich-Scammel would be in the centre of things on Tuesday night as well. Riley Pettitt and Steven Fiust both returned to action, but Braden Eliuk remained sidelined with injury and his timetable for return remains undetermined.
On Tuesday night the North Okanagan Knights rolled into town. The Steam last saw the Knights on November 9th in Enderby, where the visitors were 4-0 winners in dominant fashion. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday, as both teams came to play and were intent on coming away with two points.
An evenly played game saw the teams remain locked at zeros until the 2:16 mark of the second period. Riley Swiscoski notched his first KIJHL goal to give the North Okanagan Knights a 1-0 lead, beating Steam goaltender Jared Breitkreuz, after a great pass from Jack Berger.
It would be the only offense the Knights would mount, as the Steam outshot the visitors 28-18 on the night. They did trail, however, 1-0 after two periods of play.
North Okanagan did a great job to trap Summerland and not allow them quality opportunity at the net of Daniel Paul. When Paul was tested, he was solid, and it took until the midway point of the third period for Summerland to mount the offence they needed.
As the heat began to rise in the offensive zone for the Steam, a well timed line change allowed Josh Pilon to cruise through the middle of the zone. Riley Pettitt and Ben Dietrich-Scammel worked the cycle in the corner, and Dietrich-Scammel found Pilon in the slot. He beat Daniel Paul for his 11th of the season to tie the game at 1.
It would stay that way despite offensive pressure in both ends of the ice until the final 3 minutes of play. It looked like were firmly booked for some overtime, until Pettitt and Dietrich-Scammel went to work again. Summerland was able to intercept the North Okanagan rush at their own blue line, and head the other way.
Dietrich-Scammel led the way carrying the puck, and stopped up on the right wing half wall as Jarrett Malchow headed for the net front. Seeing he would have to get the puck into Malchow’s backhand, Dietrich-Scammel deferred and waited for Riley Pettitt to follow up. He hit Pettitt with a perfect pass, and Pettitt made no mistake into the open cage for his 12th of the season.
It would prove to be the game winner to push Summerland to 16-5-0-2, and 6-1 in the month of November. They’ll look to finish the month on a high note, the way it started, with a win over the Osoyoos Coyotes this Saturday night down in the desert.
As we hit the halfway mark of the KIJHL season, the Steam and the Coyotes have only seen each other three out of eight times. Two of those have been at the Sun Bowl, where Summerland is 1-1 this season. They’ll look to use the same formula as their last visit, which resulted in a 7-2 victory.
The Steam and the Coyotes always have good games and good rivalry, and this season has been no different. At 5 on 5, as always, they put forth a fast moving, entertaining product for fans to watch, and Saturday night should be a lot of fun.
Saturday night starts what is a crucial 8 game stretch to the holiday break for the Steam, as they face the best their conference has to offer headed toward Christmas.
They’ll start with the Coyotes and work their way through their division, playing Osoyoos, North Okanagan, Kelowna, and Princeton in their next four games. They’ll then play the 100 Mile House Wranglers on consecutive nights, one in Summerland and one in 100 Mile House. Prior to the holiday break the Steam will finish their pre-Christmas schedule on the road against the Kamloops Storm and the Kelowna Chiefs.
That’s not an easy trek, but it’s one that the Steam will begin mostly healthy and playing good hockey. They have the best team goals against average in the conference, and are second in the entire KIJHL. In the month of November to date, they’ve outscored their opponents 28-11 through 7 games in November. Quick math shows they’re scoring 4.00 goals per game, while giving up just 1.25 goals per game. That’s good.
All of the teams they’ll play between now and Christmas, besides one of the North Okanagan Knights or Princeton Posse, will be playoff teams. Like most in the KIJHL, each of the six teams Summerland will see between now and the break are teams that play different styles and brands of hockey. Summerland will be best suited to stick to the plan their coaching staff has set out for them, as it’s worked to the tune of a successful first half and a 73.9% win percentage through 23 games, 5th in the KIJHL.
The boys get on the road this weekend, and I’d urge you to get down to Osoyoos for the game Saturday night as well, a 735 start. The Steam will return home Friday, December 3 when the Kelowna Chiefs make their second visit in as many weeks. That one will be a 730 start with pre-game beginning at 715.