Steam Ready for Stretch Drive, Visit from Princeton Posse Thursday

19-7-1-3.

That’s where the Summerland Steam stand as the players take a much needed twelve days off. Sitting second in their division and among the league’s elite in both points and wins, the Steam have to be pretty happy with where they sit as they go into the break despite the final weekend.

The Steam finished their pre-Christmas schedule with an overtime loss in Kamloops on December 16th, and a comeback against Kelowna that came up just short on December 17th. Both games saw Summerland play well enough to win, but in both games small lapses cost them.

In Kamloops they got down 3-1 after two periods, and did good work in (very) small spaces at the Kamloops Memorial Arena to battle back and get a point. Everett Scherger (7), Michael MacLean (3), and Morey Babakaiff (2) scored for Summerland, while Evan Walls (11, 12) scored twice for the Storm. Former Sicamous Eagles’ captain Bryce MacDonald (3) also tallied for the Storm in regulation, and Devin Leduc (10) scored the OT winner. Matt Huber made 33 saves on the night, while Jason Sandhu stopped 37 at the other end of the ice for the Storm.

A night later, things got off to a much better start for Summerland as Ben Dietrich-Scammell (12) and Josh Pilon (13) sent the Steam to a 2-0 lead in Rutland against the Kelowna Chiefs. Kelowna, dressing only 15 skaters and really only using 12, showed great pushback near the end of the first period when Jason Village found a loose puck in the slot to get the Chiefs within one with his 12th of the year.

To start the second period, the Steam came out flat and the Chiefs picked up right where they left off. Josh Kobelka (7) and Jaden McNulty (4) were both left open on the ‘weak’ side of the ice, where pucks found them and then the back of the net just 4:06 apart to give the Chiefs a 3-2 lead.

Kobelka (8) would then add his second early in the third, followed by Village’s second (13) with 6:32 remaining to push the Chiefs ahead 5-2. Village’s second of the night was debated heavily, as it hit the back bar of the net and shot out so fast the referee had no idea it had gone in the net. While Kelowna celebrated Summerland was able to head down the ice during mass confusion on a 5-on-0, but were also confused and were unable to score. Play would go on for nearly 3 full minutes before a stoppage allowed referee Dustin Minty to confer with his linesman, call it a goal, and reset the clock to 6:32. Some around the arena said ‘we’d rather be up 4-2 with 3:00 left’, but the right call was made.

Off the ensuing faceoff, Steam captain Alex Williams fed the puck forward to Riley Pettitt, who used his speed to create a 2-on-1 and feed Wyatt Gale. Gale made a nifty move to beat the defender to the puck and pull it around a sprawling Tanner Marshall to get the Steam back within two and record his team leading 15th goal of the year.

Jarrett Malchow (10) would then get the Steam within one with 3:40 to go, scoring with a laser-beam one timer just :06 into a Steam power play. They would get another power play late to try and tie things up, but were unsuccessful and took a 5-4 defeat heading into the break.

After the game most went their separate ways for what is in total a 12 day break over the Christmas holidays. It’s a much needed one, as the Steam have played a lot of hockey thus far and have a lot left to go. The road that remains between them and the playoffs kicks off on December 29th, yes, a Thursday, when we reconvene at the Summerland Arena for the Steam to faceoff against the Princeton Posse.

It’s been a largely successful start to the KIJHL season for the Steam, and they should be proud of where they stand with 2/3 of the season passed by. Summerland sits perched among the league’s (and the province’s) elite. As you can see by the below images, the Steam are keeping pace with the most elite teams in the province, even after picking up just one of four possible points in their final two contests before the break.

screenshot_20161223-135724

Courtesy of Kimberley Dynamiters fan and blogger extraordinaire, Joshua Lockhart

 

screenshot_20161223-135745

Courtesy of Campbell River Storm Play-By-Pay man Mark Berry. Rankings done every week

 

Prior to the Christmas holiday break, the Steam have been working hard to establish an identity. An extremely talented and deep hockey team, Summerland has all the tools to have success no matter who the opponent is, provided they put in a full 60 minutes. Right now they’re in the top10 in the province in win%,  and in a tie with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats for 4th in Josh Lockhart’s KIJHL Power Rankings.

The Summerland Steam have been playing remarkably good hockey during the first 2/3 of the KIJHL season, and deserve their ranking among the top teams in the province. Equipped with four forward lines that can both score and defend, six defensemen that play specific roles and do so very well, and two goaltenders that both sit in the top 10 in the KIJHL goaltending ranks, Summerland just needs to continue to tow the line.

They lead the league on the PK, they’re in the top 10 on the power play and in the ‘goals for per game’ category, and 3rd in the KIJHL in team Goals Agaist Average. As far as standings are concerned the Steam sit with 42 points, 5th in the KIJHL and 2nd in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference only to Osoyoos, who has 45. Summerland is also second in the KIJHL and first in their conference in home winning percentage at .800% with a 12-1-1-1 record. Through the first 2/3 of the KIJHL season and 15 of their 23 home games played, Summerland has only lost once in regulation. It came at the hands of the Princeton Posse, 3-1, on Thanksgiving Sunday. Only the Kimberley Dynamiters have a better home record at 16-1 through 17 home games played prior to the Christmas break.

Coming out of the break, Summerland will face a Princeton Posse team that is scrapping for their playoff lives already. The Posse got off to a rough start this KIJHL season, going 5-15-0-2 in 22 games under Head Coach/GM Geoff Goodman and Assistant Coach Lance Vaillancourt. On November 15th the pair were relieved of their duties and replaced by new Head Coach and GM Mark McNaughton.

In nine games since McNaughton took over the reigns of the Posse wagon, the team has responded by going 3-4-1-1. Though not a sterling record, you’ll notice they’ve accumulated points in more games than not since the takeover of a new regime. A big reason for this is their goaltending.

Yes, the Princeton Posse have a goals against average of 3.45 as a team. However, starting goaltender Chandler Billinghurst is the reason (in my mind) that they win games. On a team that has eight wins in 31 tries, Billinghurst carries a personal goals against average of 2.42. That stat in itself is good, but then you notice the save percentage of near 93.5% that Billinghurst keeps while seeing an average of nearly 38 shots per start in 15 starts.

Two of the Posse’s eight wins on the season have come against Summerland. One in overtime by a score of 3-2 and one in regulation in Summerland 3-1 on October 9th. Both of these games belonged to Billinghurst, and he’s somebody Summerland will have to watch for on Thursday night when the two teams meet again in Summerland for the final time this season.

The Steam have run into trouble with Princeton’s speed in five meetings so far this season. They’ve won three of those five meetings, but have struggled to contain the likes of Tristyn Olson and Owen Reith who generate a ton of speed for the Posse and have an ability to beat defenders to the outside.

Summerland will need to make sure they’re quick out of their zone on Thursday night and not allow Princeton any ‘second chance’ opportunities. They’ll need to be strong on walls and make sure they aren’t trying to complicate things too much while coming through the neutral zone.

This is what cost them in the two games prior to the break, and it’s something they’ll surely be looking to fix. Summerland will look to get ‘back on track’ so to speak, after the only weekend of the season so far where they’ve come up with less than half the points available to them.

Puck drop on Thursday night goes at 7:30 and is presented by Nesters Market Summerland. They’ll have some giveaways, and a turkey bowl going on during the first intermission. Hopefully you had a good holiday break with your family, and now it’s back to hockey!

 

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