It was all going according to plan for the Summerland Steam last Saturday night in the desert. A textbook first period saw them outshoot the Osoyoos Coyotes, and arguably outplay them as well despite a 0-0 score line. The Steam, without Braden Eliuk, Mike MacLean, Andrew York, and Jeremy Hite, did a good job of limiting the Coyotes to just one second chance opportunity in the first period of Saturday night’s game. Matt Huber was good when needed, but Summerland carried the majority of the play.
They would get on the board in the second, as Cole Williams would fire his 8th of the season past Coyotes’ starter Adam Jones to give Summerland a 1-0 lead. Ben Dietrich-Scammell would follow that up just a couple minutes later, beating Jones with a shot high to the glove side for his 9th of the season. The goals would stake Summerland out to a 2-0 lead, but the Coyotes would get a goal back courtesy of Brayden Durante, his 4th, before the end of the period.
With the Steam up after two, they needed a strong third period to close out the victory. Unfortunately, they didn’t get it. Off the drop of the puck in the third period, there was a weird vibe to the period. Fans were antsy, players were the same, and you could feel something coming that might not be so good. Sure enough, the Coyotes were able to draw a penalty, as they tend to do, and capitalize on the power play.
Steam defenseman Mathew Alcorn was whistled for high sticking by referee Anthony Leardo just 5:36 into period three during a battle on the boards near centre ice. Alcorn used his arms and stick to push a Coyotes player off the puck in textbook fashion. His arms did not leave his side, and his stick raised no higher than waist height as the Coyotes player lost his feet.
Regardless of the situation and subsequent penalty call, the Coyotes score on power plays when given opportunities. Their power play capitalized in this situation, as it so often does, as Colin Bell would find a loose puck in the slot and beat Matt Huber to knot the score at 2.
Just 1:43 after the Bell goal to tie things at 2, Summerland defenseman Konsta Jaske was penalized for hooking. With referee Leardo trailing behind the play, a Coyotes player broke free on a breakaway. Jaske did a GREAT job to track him down, use his edges to get around him, and lift his stick before taking the puck away from the front of the Steam goal. Everyone in the building including the Coyotes and their fans were surprised to hear the whistle and see an arm in the air signaling a penalty.
Jaske was penalized for hooking and though Summerland would kill it off, Bell would notch his second of the game just :02 after the penalty expired to give the Coyotes the lead. After a good cycle around the zone from the Coyotes power play and three or four good shots from defenseman Austin Steger, Bell found another loose puck and wired it over a sprawling Matt Huber. It would stand to be the game winner.
Connor Onstein would add a goal to make it 4-2 with five minutes and change remaining, and Ryan Roseboom would salt the victory into an empty net in the closing minutes to finish things off and close out a 5-2 victory for the Coyotes. Summerland players weren’t happy, as they knew that another game against Osoyoos was well within their grasp.
They’ve only beaten the Coyotes once this season, a 7-2 drubbing at the Sun Bowl on November 5th, but they’ve had their fair share of opportunity. In all but one of the four meetings so far this season between the two teams, Summerland has held a lead going to the third. On September 23rd Summerland led 2-0 and 4-2 at intermissions, only to allow the Coyotes to storm back and win 5-4 in OT. On October 21st Summerland didn’t hold a lead in a 5-1 loss, but came back to the Sun Bowl on November 5th and put up that 7-2 victory. Last Saturday, they held a 2-1 lead after two periods, only to have the Coyotes draw a couple of questionable penalties and gain advantage by man power.
Credit to the Coyotes. They’re good at drawing penalties and GREAT at making sure they don’t take them, and they capitalize on their opportunities. Ken Law’s desert dogs rank fifth in the league in power play opportunities with 152, while they’ve only been shorthanded 93 times. To put that into perspective, the rest of the Okanagan Divison isn’t so lucky.
Summerland has been shorthanded 174 times, 2nd most in the KIJHL. The only team above them is the Kelowna Chiefs at 175, and the North Okanagan Knights and Princeton Posse are also in the Top 12. Osoyoos sits at the bottom (or top) of the KIJHL having only been shorthanded 93 times.
That’s something the Steam will need to look for when they make their final trip to the Sun Bowl for the regular season on January 13th. That’s the next time they see the Yotes, and for now they’ll have to focus on the task at hand.
A two game weekend awaits the Steam starting tonight with a visit to the North Okanagan Knights in Armstrong. The Steam and the Knights have seen each other 5 times so far this season, with Summerland holding a 4-1 record thus far. The Knights sit in fourth place in the Okanagan Division with 19 points, and will be looking to get in the win column on home ice to start December and further their lead on the 5th place Princeton Posse. The Knights have undergone some roster changes in the past couple of weeks, but you can bet Head Coach Bryant Perrier will have the boys from Armstrong ready to go.
North Okanagan and Summerland have always had a great rivalry, and this season has been no different. The Knights always come ready to work and give an honest effort each and every night, which is something Summerland does well also. Expect the game to be fast and physical, and for the emotion to show up in both teams early and often. Summerland’s speed and skill are usually matched by North Okanagan’s grit and goaltending, and it makes for a very entertaining matchup.
Summerland expects to get Forward Braden Eliuk back in their lineup after missing him for two games while he recovered from an injury suffered against Kelowna on November 18th. Eliuk, averaging a point per game this season and quarterbacking Summerland’s top power play unit, will be a huge addition to he lineup. He’ll get to face the same Kelowna Chiefs that hurt him on Saturday night at the Summerland Arena when they pay their second visit of the year.
The Chiefs play an aggressive brand of hockey, as Summerland saw on November 18th. Two things they didn’t see in that game were forward Brody Dale and goaltender Tanner Marshall, who were both with Jr.A clubs at the time. Dale, arguably Kelowna’s best player last season and no doubt their best player so far this season, was with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL, while Marshall was with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
The Chiefs are a skilled team, but their propensity to take penalties has hurt them so far this season. They are the most penalized team in the KIJHL by nearly 200 penalty minutes and have been shorthanded 175 times in 24 games. That’s an average of 7 penalties per night, effectively putting them on the penalty kill for nearly a full period every night.
Kelowna sits in third place in the Okanagan Divison with 14 wins and 30 points. Looking a little deeper into the numbers, I was a little surprised to see the Chiefs have just 4 wins against teams that are above a .500% winning percentage. One of those is against the Summerland Steam, so the Steam better be ready to handle Kelowna and their game plan. The Chiefs are quick, they’re mean, and they’ve got high end skill in players such as Brody Dale, Brett Witala, and Ryan Pereverzoff that teams have to look out for. If they can stay out of the penalty box, they’ll have no problem ‘running with the big dogs’ in this division and conference all the way to the playoffs.
December 1st is the day that BC Hockey tabs as the first roster deadline of the season. Teams are required to trim from the 45 player cards they have to start the season down to a total combination of 25 player cards, occupied or not. This causes a flurry of movement around BC’s Junior Hockey ranks, but didn’t mean too much in the Okanagan Divison.
The only notable moves were made by the Osoyoos Coyotes, who sent defenceman Kyle Rosolowski to Nelson in exchange for the playing rights of Penticton, BC native Michael Crawford. Crawford, a former Coyote, returns to the team after spending parts of the past two seasons with the Springfield Express of the WSHL. The Coyotes also sent Levi Lambert to the Golden Rockets in exchange for Future Considerations, as well as sending Carter Shannon to Abbotsford a couple of weeks ago.
As for the Steam, there isn’t much to report. GM Gregg Wilson said the phones were busy, but nothing of any substance was ever discussed. He and Coach John Depourcq like their team, and are excited about what’s to come heading into a busy stretch leading to Christmas.
Friday night begins a stretch of three games in five days for the Steam, as they’ll visit North Okanagan Knights Friday, take on the Kelowna Chiefs at home on Saturday, and the Princeton Posse at the Summerland Arena on Tuesday night. Joel and I will have full pre-game shows for both games starting at 7:15 ahead of 7:30 starts.