Some would argue that the Summerland Steam have played so well through November and into December that only an act of mother nature could stop them. Well that’s what happened last Friday night in Armstrong, as the power went out at the Nor Val Centre.
The Steam went 6-2 in November, and looked to start December off on the right note Friday night with a visit to the North Okanagan Knights in Armstrong. Josh Pilon opened the scoring with his 12th of the season just :59 seconds into the hockey game before Brady Marzocco replied on the power play for the Knights a short time later. The Marzocco shot that beat Steam starter Matt Huber was one of only 5 in the first period the Steam net minder saw.
Before the end of the period, Brogan Lautard would convert his second of the season on a pretty back-door feed from Riley Pettitt to give the Steam a 2-1 lead headed to the dressing room after one.
Everett Scherger would notch his 5th of the season near the midway mark of the third on the power play, before Ben Dietrich-Scammell tallied his 10th to put the Steam up 4-1. Two shots by North Okanagan in the first 16 minutes of the second period brought their tally to seven on the night for Matt Huber to stop, and he made the majority of them look easy.
With 4:01 remaining in period 2, things got weird. The power went out to most of the Nor-Val Centre in Armstrong, and the status of the remainder of the game was up in the air. After about a 40 minute delay, it was decided that the remainder of the game would be postponed to a later date as the status of the power remained unclear.
It is likely that the two teams will finish the game the next time Summerland visits, which is January 14th. They will play the remaining 24 minutes of the game dated December 2nd, picking up with Summerland leading 4-1 with 4:01 remaining in the second period. The two teams will then play their regularly scheduled game set to take place that evening. It’s a weird scenario, but nothing the two teams can’t handle. Summerland is in a good spot leading 4-1, and will do their best to close that game out on January 14th.
After the power debacle on Friday night, there was no shortage of electricity Saturday as the Kelowna Chiefs came into the Summerland Arena. For just the third time this year, the Steam and the Chiefs went head to head in a clash between two of the top teams in the KIJHL’s Okanagan Divison.
The game got off to a fast start, with both Matt Huber and Chiefs goaltending standout Tanner Marshall making saves and getting into the game early. It turned out to be a choppy first period, marred by penalties and post-whistle skirmishes. One of these skirmishes was especially special as Kelowna Chiefs forward Tyson Taylor, in his first game back after suspension for accumulated instigator penalties, jumped Steam Forward Steven Fiust.
After Fiust made a hit on the wall in neutral ice on the puck carrier, Taylor, Taylor immediately shed his gloves and started throwing. Fiust, wanting no part of a fight or early shower, did not throw a punch in the exchange. Instead Fiust dropped his gloves and held on to the jersey of Taylor in an effort to defend himself, trying to get distance from the 20-year old Chiefs’ forward. Both were assessed fighting majors anyway, Taylor the instigator as well, and banished from the game
For the Chiefs, who lead the league in penalty minutes by a landslide, it was the first of four major infractions on the night. In addition to the Taylor instigator and fight, Dakota Kittle was tossed for slew footing and Zachary Whitehead and Tyler Love both took head contact penalties. These are malicious penalty calls, and each one was applauded by Chiefs players and staff as they happened throughout the course of the game.
The lone bright spot in an otherwise terribly played first period was a goal from Chiefs leading scorer Brett Witala. Witala made a nifty move to pick up a pass between his legs at the Summerland blue line, and was able to step over the line and beat Matt Huber with a 50 foot laser beam into the top corner. It went in and out so fast, a lot of people didn’t think it went in the net. Witala’s 20th of the season with just over two minutes remaining in the first period gave the Chiefs a 1-0 lead going to the break.
From the start of the second period onwards, it was the Wyatt Gale show. The Steam forward tied the game at 1 on a breakaway near the midway point of the second period, beating Tanner Marshall five-hole for his 12th of the year. Everett Scherger would follow that with his sixth of the year, on the power play, to give the Steam a 2-1 lead heading to the second intermission.
In the third, the parade to the penalty box for the Chiefs continued, and Summerland would never relinquish their lead. Gale would notch his second of the night and 13th of the season, on the power play, on a beautiful deflection in front of Tanner Marshall to put Summerland up by 2. He would then complete the hat trick for his team leading 14th of the season to finish the scoring off at 4-1.
The victory pushes Summerland to a 2-1 record against the Chiefs this season, with the home team winning every meeting so far. The two teams will meet again December 18th in Rutland, in Summerland’s last game before the holiday break.
The Steam would finish off three games in five days on Tuesday night with a visit from the Princeton Posse on tap. The Posse, 1-1-1-1 under new Head Coach Mark McNaughton, came into Summerland looking to continue a run of strong play that saw them beat Kelowna, and tie 100 Mile House in recent games.
The Posse had six wins in 26 starts coming into Tuesday night, but 4 of those 6 wins have come against Summerland, Osoyoos, and Kelowna. That tells you they come to compete, and on Tuesday night, Chandler Billinghurst was the star of the show.
A 2.57 goals against average and .927% save percentage on any team is considered to be great numbers. Doing it on a team with just six wins is flat out excellent, and on Tuesday night Billinghurst was the reason the Posse stayed in the game. Through two periods, the Summerland Steam outshot the Posse 28-11 but the game was scoreless headed for the third period.
In the third, Billinghurst did his best to hold the Steam off, but the Summerland power play was able to beat him with 7:02 remaining. Morey Babakaiff played catch at the point with Cole Williams had the puck returned to him, and found a lane to the back side. Babakaiff threaded a pass onto the stick of Jarrett Malchow, who hammered a one-timer into the open cage for his 7th of the year.
Josh Pilon would add his 13th of the year on another power play just a couple of minutes later to double the lead for Summerland, and they wouldn’t look back. Ben Dietrich-Scammell would salt the victory with his 11th into an empty net with 1:12 remaining.
Jared Breitkreuz got the start in the game for Summerland, and made saves on all 18 shots he faced, including two breakaways from Princeton’s Tristyn Olson for his second shutout of the year. Breitkreuz takes his goals against average down to 0.80 and his save percentage up to .957% in five starts and five victories.
The two points for Summerland pulls them into a tie for the division and conference lead with the Osoyoos Coyotes, though the Coyotes hold 2 games in hand. The Steam will get a taste of the top of the conference this coming weekend, as they’ll see the 100 Mile House Wranglers for a home and home Friday and Saturday.
The Wranglers are second to the Chase Heat in the Doug Birks Division with 31 points, and provide a certain ‘stiffness’ and grit that isn’t seen around much of the league. They’re a much different team than the one Summerland beat 7-2 in their season opener, and it’s sure to be a hard fought two games.
The reigning Western Canadian Champion Wranglers, coached by Dale Hladun, have had a good year after a bit of a rocky start. It took them a few games to get started, but they’ve worked themselves up the Doug Birks Division standings into second place behind the Chase Heat. The Doug Birks is a rough and tough division, and the Wranglers bring a brand of physicality that Summerland hasn’t seen much of this year. It will be interesting to see how they handle it and what changes they make to their game plan come Friday night.
The Wranglers will be looking to have a more successful trip to the Okanagan next Friday than this past weekend. They came up empty in Kelowna on Friday before blowing a 3 goal lead in Osoyoos on Saturday to lose 4-3 in OT. They then played to a 3-3 tie in Princeton on Sunday afternoon and headed home with just two of a possible six points. They followed that up with a 4-1 loss to the Kamloops Storm in Wednesday night.
Friday night will be Summerland’s second “Fill The Net” food drive to support the Summerland Food Bank. The Steam and the Summerland Minor Hockey Association will be collecting donations to help families in need, as well as draw Summerland Minor Hockey’s annual cash raffle!
If you can’t join us at the rink, join Joel and I on playfullscreen.com starting with full pre-game at 715.