Steam Show Character in Pair of Weekend Wins 

A lot of coaches who coach junior hockey will tell you that there are certain games throughout a season that show you what your team is really made of. This was one of those weekends from the Summerland Steam. With two extremely tough opponents in the Chase Heat and Kelowna Chiefs, and needing the points to keep pace with the ever dangerous Osoyoos Coyotes, Summerland came to play. On Friday night they picked up a 7-4 home victory over the Doug Birks Division leading Heat, before having to mount an unlikely comeback on Saturday night in Kelowna. 

Head Coach John Depourcq of the Summerland Steam has to be happy with what he saw from his group this weekend, as he watched them win by coming from behind in both games. Against Chase it was just a 1-0 deficit, as Mason Palaga opened the scoring for the Heat on the powerplay near the midway mark of the first period. Palaga found a soft spot in the slot, found a rebound off a shot from Josh Bourne, and beat Steam starter Matt Huber over the blocker to put Chase out front.

It didn’t take long for the same thing to happen at the other end of the ice, just five minutes in fact, as the Steam were able to make the same play happen. After some good work in the corner Scott Robinson was able to find Ben Dietrich-Scammell open in the slot, and he made no mistake going under the bar behind Nic Bruyere for his 17th of the season.

Josh Pilon would give Summerland a lead they wouldn’t relinquish with :39 remaining in the first period, connecting on the  powerplay for his 15th of the year to end the first period. It was a period that I, personally, thought Summerland was lucky to get out of up by a goal, but they’d continue to score early in the second.

Just under three minutes into period number two, Andrew York would be credited with his 7th of the year to put Summerland up 3-1. The goal came off a Cole Wiliams shot from the point, which initially we thought a Chase defender put into his own net. It was in fact York who tucked the puck behind Bruyere, and the Steam found themselves up 3-1.

Riley Pettitt would then get his first of two on the night, on the power play, with just 5 minutes gone in the second period. After taking a pass up the left wing side, Pettitt was able to streak in and beat Bruyere up high to stretch the Summerland lead to 4-1 with his 17th of the season. 

Grady Musgrave would pick up a rebound and bring the Heat back to within two a few minutes later, but Levi Johnson would make sure the lead stayed at 3 goals to finish the second period. Johnson, in his first game in nearly 2 months, picked up a goal and an assist in his return. The goal, Summerland’s 5th of the night, was of the highlight reel variety. Johnson took a cross-ice pass from Ben Dietrich-Scammell through traffic and drug it back across the crease to beat a sliding Nic Bruyere by way of the five-hole.

Summerland would take the three goal lead to the second intermission, but it would be cut back to two courtesy of Chase’s Zach Fournier early in the third. The Yukon Line would then ensure things didn’t get any closer, as Jarrett Malchow fed Riley Pettitt at the back post for his 18th to restore the Steam three goal lead at 6-3. 

Josh Bourne would pull Chase back to within two and make it 6-4 before Malchow would put one into an empty net to round out the scoring at 7-4 for the home team. 

Summerland showed once again that they’re right there with the league’s elite, and did well to show themselves off against one of the best teams in the conference. They did so missing two key pieces in Mike MacLean (suspension) and Braden Eliuk (illness). 

They’d be without these two on Saturday night as well when the Steam faced off against the rival Kelowna Chiefs. The two missing bodies to start the game would be the least of the Steam’s worries, as they lost 5 players mid-game during that tilt on Saturday night. 

Three of them, Scott Robinson, Calvin Hadley, and Andrew York, were tossed along with their Chiefs counterparts for fighting. Summerland would also lose Jarrett Malchow and Everett Scherger early on in the game, and were down to 13 skaters for the majority of the contest. 

The Chiefs were on early, jumping out to a 2-0 lead thanks to a goal from Brendan Laing and a wicked shot from leading scorer Brett Witala. Laing was able to beat Steam starter Matt Huber on a 2-on-1 courtesy of a pass from Josh Kobelka. Witala was able to catch everyone napping, taking a bounce off the end boards and sniping one over the glove of Huber.

Elliott Pickrell would then put the Chiefs up 3-0 early in the second period, taking a pass out of the penalty box and beating Huber on a breakaway. 

With the loss of the five players early in the game, and down seven regulars overall, it would have been easy for the Steam to roll over and call it a night. For a minute, it looked like that’s what they were going to do. 

A powerplay goal from Morey Babakaiff, his third goal of the year, sparked the Steam with just over three minutes remaining in period two. They went to the intermission with renewed hope, and in the third it was their veterans that took over. Wyatt Gale scored his 19th of the year with exactly 19:00 remaining in the third period. 

The Steam would keep pushing, and eventually get the game tied on the powerplay in the middle stages of the third period. An unlikely source was the one to break through, as captain Alex Williams was the one to get the goal. Williams, usually a guy depended on for defending and providing some physicality and leadership in the Steam locker room, was given net-front duty on the Steam powerplay with all the bodies missing. 

He was able to score his first of the season by tipping a Konsta Jaske point shot past Kelowna goaltender Tanner Marshall to tie things at 3 and eventually force overtime.

In the extra frame Matt Huber made two saves, while Summerland only needed one shot. It came off the stick of Cole Williams, a backhand at the end of an end-to-end rush, as he beat Tanner Marshall to give the Steam the victory. 

With the victory, the Steam pick up their 4th win in six tries against the Chiefs, and first at Rutland Arena. It felt like a playoff game from the very start, and it was great to see the Steam battle through some adversity and get the job done on the road in a building where they needed a win. 

The only arena that remains where the Steam haven’t picked up a victory this season is Kamloops Memorial Arena, and they’ll have one more chance to do that before the season ends. 

After weekend results Summerland holds steady at five points behind the Osoyoos Coyotes. Osoyoos picked up two wins on the weekend as well, so Summerland still holds a game in hand and three head to head matchups remain.

The first of those matchups comes Friday night, January 27th at the Summerland Arena. It’s sure to be busy and loud in a playoff like atmosphere, which should be a lot of fun for us all. Have a look for the preview in the coming days.

Shootout in Summerland sees Steam Win 5th Straight

After a two win weekend this past weekend, the Summerland Steam were straight back to work on Tuesday night as they hosted the North Okanagan Knights. The two teams played last Saturday to a 6-2 decision in favour of the Steam in Armstrong, and went back at it again Tuesday night at the Summerland Arena. Summerland came into the game looking to pickup their 5th straight victory and move their home record to 15-1-1-1. They did so, picking up a 7-5 victory in a game that went back and forth nearly all night.
Summerland got off to a hot start on Tuesday night, peppering Knights goaltender Daniel Paul in the first five minutes and using a good forecheck to impose their will inside North Okanagan territory. Calvin Hadley was able to open the scoring for the Steam with his third of the season just a few minutes into the first period. After that good forecheck from the Steam, Morey Babakaiff was able to get th puck to the point and head for the net. Hadley was able to blast a shot through traffic and off a body, by Daniel Paul for a 1-0 Summerland lead. 

The opening goal came with 12:01 remaining in period 1, and Summerland wasn’t finished. They would score two more, Andrew York’s sixth of the season on a deflection at 8:04 followed by Matt Alcorn’s second of the year and second in as many games at 7:35. The two goals, both long shots through traffic, came just :29 apart and put Summerland out to a 3-0 lead.

It wasn’t long though before North Okanagan had an answer. Chris Pederson, recently acquired by the Knights from the Chase Heat, was able to score on a long shot of his own through traffic at 5:59 to tally his first KIJHL goal and pull the Knights back to within two after a period of play. The period was dominated by the Summerland Steam, as they outshot the Knights by a 14-5 margin and held their 3-1 lead. 

Everett Scherger would make it 4-1 with his 11th of the season, shorthanded, at 7:05 of the second frame. While on the PK, Scherger put his unbelievable ability to pursue the puck on display and stripped a puck off goaltender Daniel Paul in behind the North Okanagan goal. He was able to beat Paul back to the far post with a wrap around to put Summerland up 4-1.

The Scherger goal was the only bright spot for Summerland in period two, as they paraded to the penalty box and allowed the Knights to gain back some momentum. North Okanagan was able to capitalize at 5:11 on the power play when Cameron Welch made a move to get Steam starter Jared Breitkreuz out of position before banking the puck in off him for Welch’s fourth of the season.

Dean Whitcomb would pull the visitors within one at 3:48 when he scored his 13th of the season to make it a 4-3 game. In between the many Knights powerplays in the second period, Whitcomb found himself all alone in front of Breitkreuz. He made no mistake in stopping the point shot from Pedersen, dragging the puck around a sprawling Breitkreuz, and tucking it into the empty cage. 

With the score 4-3 and the clock winding down in the second period, Summerland was sent to the PK on a LATE slashing call by referee Lyle Hinds. Matt Alcorn was the culprit, and he argued his way to the penalty box and slammed the door. When he slammed the door, he and Jarrett Malchow (also in the box) got a glass shower.  The glass in the penalty box door smashed into a million little pieces, forcing an early intermission and extended delay as the arena staff got things cleaned up and replaced. They did a wonderful job and limited us to about a 25 minute delay before we got underway with the final 21:12.

Ben Dietrich-Scammell would be the next to tally, notching his 16th of the season on a nifty cutback with 14:43 remaining in the third period. North Okanagan, however, had an answer and it came in the form of Cameron Welch’s second of the night and fifth of the season. Welch was able to pick a puck up out of the corner and find his way into traffic in the slot. There, he beat Jared Breitkreuz to get the Knights back within a goal and make the score 5-4 with just over 11 minutes remaining.

Riley Pettitt would take his turn next, scoring what would stand as the game winner with 9:22 to play. After a good breakout, the Yukon Line moved their way through neutral ice three abreast. Wyatt Gale fed the right side to Jarrett Malchow, who carried over the blue line and fed a pass onto the tape of a streaking Riley Pettitt. Pettitt was able to guide the puck in at the back post for his 16th to extend Summerland’s lead to 6-4.

Dean Whitcomb would score again, his 14th, to make it 6-5 with 5:46 to play before Pettitt scored again on a Summerland powerplay to close things out with 1:45 to play and make the final 7-5. 

Highlights: 

This game as a whole was a little bit loose, as you could tell by the combined 12 goals. Only two of those goals, one for each team, came on the power play. They gave each other opportunities, combining for 12 total powerplays, but were mostly unsuccessful in their efforts with the man advantage. Despite the five goals against, the Steam were pretty good in most areas of the ice. They worked hard on the forecheck and did well to create offense off the rush, but the area that their problems occurred in was the five foot perimeter around their own net. Four of the Knights five goals were scored from that area, and the fifth was scored because there was traffic in that area. Summerland will need to work on that in practice this week if they want to have a chance to win their next home game, this Friday against the Chase Heat.
The Heat bring a much different element to he game me than a lot of teams in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference. Head Coach Brad Fox and the Chase Heat staff have put together a great blend of skill and smarts, as well as size and goaltending, to compete in a tough Doug Birks Division. Right now the Heat lead that division with a 24-9-1-2 record and 51 points, 5 points clear of the 100 Mile House Wranglers.

They’re led by a mix of veteran KIJHL Players and young talent, and can beat you in a lot of different ways. Michael Fidanza leads the team in scoring, and sits sixth in the KIJHL and third in the conference in scoring with 51 points (14G+32A). The special part about Chase though, is that it’s not only Fidanza you have to worry about. 

The Heat have 9, yes nine, players that average nearly a point per game or better. Josh Bourne (KIJHL Top Prospects Game Participant), Kaden Black, Pat Brady, Spencer Farstad, Zach Fournier, Kolten Moore, Travis Beaubien, Cody Hodges, and Mason Palaga all average .90 points per game or higher. That’s a deep hockey team. 

Chase’s depth will come in handy Friday night in Summerland as Hodges will miss the game due to suspension and Michael Fidanza is listed on the KIJHL website as day-to-day with a lower body injury. This could impact Head Coach Brad Fox’s line combinations, but with how deep Chase is it shouldn’t be too much of a concern.

If you manage to neutralize all of Chase’s offensive threats and create some of your own, well, you still have to find a way to beat Nic Bruyere. In 28 appearances this season, Bruyere carries a 2.88 goals against average and a .915% save percentage. The 20 year- old Burnaby, BC native is a 3 year KIJHL veteran that holds a career win-loss record of 44-27-4-3 in 76 appearances to go with a 2.60 goals against average and .920% save percentage in over 4500 minutes played.

 He’s been the great equalizer for the Chase Heat for the bulk of the past two seasons, and the Summerland Steam will have to find creative ways to beat him on Friday night if they want to win.

For my money, he’s the best goaltender in the KIJHL and comes up clutch in big moments. That’s what you want from your goaltender and that’s what Chase gets on a consistent basis. 

Bruyere is a big goaltender, but moves deceptively well for his 6’1″, 210 Lb frame. Summerland should look to get traffic in front of him and fire away from the blue line, much like Tuesday night against North Okanagan. Josh Pilon and Mike MacLean, in particular, are two big bodies that Summerland should look to have drive the net and create problems for the Chase Heat below the hash marks.

It should be a great game Friday night between two powerhouses in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference. Puck drop goes at 7:30 at the Summerland Arena. Joel and I will have the Coastal Eye Clinic Pre-Game show coming your way on playfullscreen.com starting at 7:15 with audio hopefully from both coaches.

Prospects Weekend A Smash, Steam Perfect in Two Tests

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It seems like forever ago we found out that the KIJHL would join with the Kelowna International Major Midget Tournament (KIMMT) to put on the 2017 KIJHL Top Prospects Showcase. For the past couple of months there has been hot debate as to how the game would be formatted, who would be included, how the rosters would look, and how fans league wide could watch the game. What they ultimately decided on was players born in ’99 and ’00, and those players didn’t disappoint on Saturday afternoon on Shaw TV channels throughout the bulk of the province or on YouTube.

From the very beginning the high skill level was on display, and the teams showed themselves well on route to a 3-3 tie. Evan Walls of the Kamloops Storm and Tyler Ghirardosi of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks each scored a pair, and were named Player of the Game for their respective teams. Brady Berger of the Grand Forks Border Bruins scored the other goal for Team Kootenay, while Brendan Mongey of the hometown Kelowna Chiefs scored the other for the Okanagan Shuswap Conference.

Morey Babakaiff was the only player selected from the Summerland Steam for the 2017 Top Prospects Showcase, and had an assist while playing with Kamloops young stars Evan Walls, and Devin Leduc. Walls and Leduc, along with Kamloops teammates Jacob Callas and Garrett Ewart were the stars for Team Okanagan Shuswap, while Beaver Valley’s Tyler Ghirardosi and Bradley Ross were arguably the most impactful players for Team Kootenay.

You can watch the full Shaw TV broadcast on YouTube here:

 With the prospects showcase taking place in Kelowna, a lot of teams had light work loads this past weekend in the KIJHL. The Summerland Steam, however, had two big games to play. On Friday night the Steam paid their final visit of the season to the desert to faceoff with the rival Osoyoos Coyotes. The Yukon Line led the way, scoring 3 of Summerland’s 4 goals on route to a 4-3 victory. 

Wyatt Gale scored in the game’s first minute to put the Steam up 1-0, and they would go to first intermission with that lead after an extremely well played “road period”. In the second the Steam were at their best as Riley Pettitt scored twice and Ben Dietrich-Scammell added another to extend the lead to 4-0. While they were scoring to extend the lead, they also took their turn putting expert penalty killing on display. Friday was no different than most other times the Steam play the Coyotes in the fact they gave them ample opportunity to cash in on the powerplay. On Friday though, Summerland did a great job to prevent the Coyotes from scoring with the man advantage. 

The visitors would take their 4-0 lead to the third period, where they would withstand a Coyotes onslaught and pick up a 4-3 victory.  Hunter Johnson and Ryan Roseboom would pull the Coyotes within two, and Austin Steger would add a third with :47 remaining, but that was as close as the Coyotes would get. Matt Huber was sensational for the Seam in victory, stopping 42 of 45 shots faced.

Saturday night in Armstrong was much different than Friday in Osoyoos.  Summerland didn’t look quite as good as they did on Friday, yet they still dominated from start to finish on the way to a 6-2 victory over the North Okanagan Knights. Everett Scherger scored twice while Matt Alcorn, Andrew York, Mike MacLean, and Ben Dietrich-Scammell also scored. For Alcorn it goes down as his first KIJHL goal, as he was sprung from the penalty box on a pass from Konsta Jaske, he made no mistake in sliding a puck by Knights goaltender Connor Webb. If not for Webb, Saturday night’s contest could have been a lot more lopsided. The young Knights goaltender stopped 33 of 39 shots, including 14 of 18 from inside the “High Quality” scoring triangle.

These two teams will lock up again tonight at the Summerland Arena for the 8th and final time this season. There is still the remainder of a December 2nd game to be played to complete the season series, which will likely be made up as the final game of the regular season near the end of February. 

By meeting number eight, these two teams know each other pretty well. That was evident on Saturday night as the physicality was present from the very beginning. That’s going to be the case again Tuesday as both teams have their own goals in mind. The Steam are looking to close the 7 point gap on the Osoyoos Coyotes, while the Knights are looking to get back on track and gain some ground on the Princeton Posse who sit just two points back of the final playoff spot the Knights currently occupy.

Puck drop goes at 7:30 at the Summerland Arena. Joel and I will have the Coastal Eye Clinic pre-game show on playful screen.com starting at 7:15 with coaches audio and a full preview of what’s to come.

Steam Stand Firm at BC Hockey Deadline, Prepare for Coyotes Friday

As the BC Hockey Roster Movement period came to a close at midnight on January 10th, the Summerland Steam and their management team saw it come and go with no moves. Not surprising, as Summerland remains one of the top four teams in the entire KIJHL in most major categories, and looks to close on the division leading Osoyoos Coyotes. 

“We’re very happy with our group,” said Steam General Manager Mike Rigby on Wednesday morning, “From the beginning we’ve known that we have the pieces in our dressing room to get the job done every night. We have faith in our organization and its players to work hard for one another and continue to strive for success.”

Summerland heads down the stretch, with 15 games to play, happy with what they’ve got. So what is it they’ve got?

 They’ve got four solid lines that can play in any situation, six defensemen that bring very different elements, and two goaltenders that can win them a game on any given night. They’re just fine without any additional help coming at the deadline. In fact, most teams were. Inside the Okanagan Division, the only team to swing a TRADE on January 10th was the Princeton Posse. They sent standout goaltender Chandler Billinghurst (’97) to the Castlegar Rebels in exchange for goaltender Jason Mailhiot (’98). 

The Osoyoos Coyotes added former defensemen Tyler Holz (’96) back onto their roster, while the Kelowna Chiefs lost Brody Dale (’99) to the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. The North Okanagan Knights, alongside the Summerland Steam, had no reported activity.

Summerland will start the post-deadline stretch this Friday night with their 4th and final visit to the desert to play the rival Coyotes. It’s the first of four meetings between the two teams in the final 15 games of the season, three of which will take place at the Summerland Arena where the Steam hold a 14-1-1-1 record.

The Coyotes are the team to beat right now in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference. They’re 8-1-0-1 in their past 10 games, and 16-1-0-1 since Summerland beat them 7-2 on the Sun Bowl ice surface on November 5th. Overall, Head Coach Ken Law’s team is 27-6-0-1, good for 55 points and a 9 point lead on Summerland in the divisional standings. The Steam do hold two games in hand as of right now, and the two teams have four head to head matchups remaining.

These two teams have propensity to play instant classics at this time of year, and the fact we get to see it four times in the remaining 15 games, plus potentially in the playoffs, is absolutely fantastic. If it’s true what they say, familiarity breeds contempt, there’s going to be a whole lot of it by the time the end of February comes around.

Driven by their veteran players, the Osoyoos Coyotes are in their familiar first position in the Okanagan Division standings. Summerland is also in their most familiar position, in second, trying to catch them. The two teams have run away at the top of the Okanagan Division for the third straight season, and it should be a dog fight to the finish.

If Summerland wants to keep pace, they need AT LEAST 3 of those 4 head to head wins. That starts Friday night in Osoyoos, when the two teams will face off for the fifth time this season. In four previous meetings the Coyotes have won three times. Once in overtime by a 5-4 score, and then by scores of 5-1 and 5-2. In all three of these games the Coyotes have had copious amounts of power play time, and have been allowed to cash in at least twice in each of the three meetings. The only Summerland victory against the Coyotes this season was the exact opposite of those three games. A 7-2 victory at the Sun Bowl saw Summerland connect twice on the power play, and not allow the Coyotes to score on their power play opportunities. In the 2016/17 season series, the Coyotes are 9/35 (!!) on the powerplay and have a 3-1 record while Summerland has scored four times on just 13 total opportunities and has a 1-2-0-1 record to show for it.

There seems to be a direct correlation between stopping the Coyotes on Special Teams and coming up with victories against them. In the six regulation losses and one overtime loss on the Coyotes record this season, they’ve been kept to just a 16.21% (6/37) conversion rate on their power play. That’s a significant drop from the 28.18% (51/181) they convert at in their 26 victories and 26.15% clip they keep overall. 

Staying at 5v5 was how the Steam were able to beat the Coyotes in the playoffs last year, and that’s how it’s going to have to be again if Summerland is going to be successful. At 5v5, these two teams play fast, physical hockey that usually results in very close and entertaining hockey games. Summerland will look to get the puck in deep and use their forecheck to disrupt the Coyotes flow, while the Coyotes will look to get their defensemen involved inside the offensive zone to create offense.

Austin Steger and Daniel Stone are the two defensemen in particular that the Coyotes will look to for offense. Both 20 year-old KIJHL veterans, Steger and Stone are one/two in KIJHL scoring by defensemen. Stone, the Coyotes’ Captain, has put up 45 points (13G+32A) in 34 games this season, while Steger has put up a ridiculous 29 points (10G+19A) in just 15 games since joining the Coyotes from the Nelson Leafs. Including the 18 games played with the Leafs where Steger put up 2 goals and 10 points, it gives the 20 year-old from Edmonton 39 points in 33 KIJHL games this season.

Both of these players will not hesitate to jump in on a rush, or into the slot for an offensive opportunity. It will be the onus of Summerland’s wingers to make sure their coverage isn’t blown on the Coyotes defensemen. The powerplay seems to be where the two defensemen combine for most of their points. Everything the Coyotes do on their top powerplay unit comes from the side walls and runs through either Steger or Stone. They like to work the right wing wall, find Steger at the top, and a move to the left side for a Stone one timer. If the pass to Stone isn’t where he wants it, he’ll then move to the forward in the slot for a shot. It’s predictable, but they do it so well that they still score at a 26+% clip. Ideally Summerland will keep them off the PP, but that’s the play to look for if they can’t.

For the Steam it’ll be about creating pressure in all parts of the ice on Friday night to keep the Coyotes on their heels. Summerland has done a very good job in recent games making sure that they limit the second chance opportunities in front of their net, and clearing pucks on the first attempt. The black, red and white have been very good with their puck protection in their own zone, and will have to be cognizant of a very good Coyotes forward group always looking for quick opportunities. 

It will likely be Matt Huber who starts in goal for the Steam on Friday, and they’ll look for a big effort from their second year keeper in a game that is extremely important in the standings if Summerland has hopes of a division championship. Huber, like all goaltenders, is better when he can see. It’s going to be important for Summerland’s defense corps to make sure the Coyotes, particularly the big body of Ryan Roseboom, don’t occupy territory in front of the Summerland net. The ability to see will allow Huber to track pucks and control rebounds.

At the other end, in front of Adam Jones, the Steam should look to do exactly what they’re trying to prevent in their own end. With a 2.38 goals against average and a .921% save percentage, Jones is going to stop most of what he can see. Summerland will need to drive to the front of the net and create some traffic if they want to beat one of the best statistical goaltenders in the KIJHL. It will be important for Summerland’s forwards to drive play below the Coyotes goal line and create offense from there by beating defenders with a good forecheck and cycle.

The summary of all of these things is very simple. If both of these teams play to their capabilities there’ll be one heck of a dog fight Friday night at the Sun Bowl, so buckle up and enjoy. Puck drop goes at 7:35 and will be available on playfullscreen.com via KIJHL Webcast with Tom Shields.

Complete Effort Nets Steam a Victory

On Friday night the Summerland Steam hosted the Kelowna Chiefs for a third time in this KIJHL season. For a third time at the Summerland Arena, the Steam put together a complete effort and came away with a 4-2 victory for their effort.

In the fifth meeting of the season between the Steam and the Chiefs, the home team won the game for the fifth time. For the second consecutive time though, the road team opened the scoring. Josh Kobelka cracked a 0-0 deadlock with 2:58 remaining in the first period, converting on a Kolten Carpenter shot that was headed intentionally wide of the net. The puck slung out the other side of the goal, where Kobelka went roof on Steam starter Matt Huber to give the Chiefs the lead. It looked as though the Chiefs would take that lead into the first intermission despite being heavily outshot.

On Summerland’s 22nd shot of the period, Everett Scherger was able to beat Chiefs starter Tanner Marshall on a wrap-around with just :12.9 seconds left in the first frame. After a faceoff win from Braden Eliuk and a shot from Calvin Hadley at the point, Scherger was able to find the loose puck at the side of the net. Instead of forcing it to the front, he smartly took it around the back and wrapped in his 8th of the season to tie the game at 1.

To start the second it was Matt Huber’s turn to keep his team in the game. Tanner Marshall had done it in superb fashion for the Chiefs in the first period, and Huber, not to the same extent, had to do it in the second. Just over a minute into the period Josh Kobelka found himself all alone with 20 feet between he and Huber. He made a move to his forehand, and then to his backhand, but Huber stayed with him all the way and stuffed the attempt on the glove side.

Huber then made three or four saves in the coming minutes to allow Summerland to get their legs back, and they rewarded him for it. With 7:02 remaining in the period Riley Pettitt would notch his 13rh of the season to give the Steam the lead. The play would start in the Summerland end with Konsta Jaske sending a pass up the left wing for Wyatt Gale. Gale then moved it to Pettitt who found himself with a clean look at Marshall in the Kelowna goal. He made no mistake, beating Marshall low to the blocker side to give the Steam the lead.

Wyatt Gale would then add his 17th with 4:35 remaining in the second frame to extend Summerland’s lead to 3-1. After some sustained pressure in the Kelowna zone, Summerland was able to cycle the puck around in the corner and find Gale out front. They’d worked so well on the cycle that they’d sucked the extra Kelowna defender in, and Gale found himself with all sorts of real estate in front of Tanner Marshall. He made no mistake, burying a shot low to the blocker side to extend the Summerland lead.

That would do it for the scoring until the final minute when Cole Williams would add an empty netter, his 10th goal of the season, to extend the lead to 4-1. Brett Witala would notch his league leading 23rd as time expired to make the final score 4-2 in favour of the home team.

Highlights:

This was a good hockey game. From start to nearly the finish, the two teams behaved themselves and took limited runs at one another until the final six minutes. In those final six minutes the standard stuff began to happen, but it wasn’t anything malicious. Both benches, both coincidentally missing their head coaches for very different reasons, kept their cool. Kelowna was without both Head Coach Jason Tansem and Assistant Dave Andrusiak, and Summerland played the game without Head Coach John Depourcq behind the bench.

At one point Assistant Coach Olli Dickson of Summerland and newly returned Assistant Coach Lenny Rampone of the Kelowna Chiefs were asked to leave the bench by referee Kevin Crowell for jawing at one another. They came nearly nose to nose between the benches before being asked to leave. I don’t believe any penalties were assessed to either man.

Summerland had a good night. They did a good job to neutralize the majority of the guys that do the damage for the Chiefs. Witala ended up with a goal, as did Kobelka, but even those were isolated incidents. Summerland did good work to make sure those big guns stayed to the outside and didn’t get any ‘Grade A’ scoring chances.

With a tough stretch of games coming up in their next five contests, Summerland will have to get used to holding off the big guns of other teams. In their next five games they’ll see the Osoyoos Coyotes twice, Kelowna once, Chase once, and North Okanagan once. All of those teams have potent forwards and great goaltending that could pose problems if the Steam don’t bring their ‘A’ game.

They’re looking to close on the Coyotes at the top of the Okanagan Division, and will definitely need those two wins in the two games they play against them this month. The Coyotes keep on winning, much like Summerland does, and it’ll be a race to the finish with four head to head matchups left.

The first of those two meetings will come Friday in Osoyoos, and we’ll have a preview for you sometime mid-week this week to get ready for that clash. Summerland will not return to home ice until they play the North Okanagan Knights on Tuesday, January 17th.

 

 

 

Steam Host Chiefs, Looking To Gain Ground


The Okanagan Divison is surely one of the toughest divisions in the KIJHL. It boasts five teams who play hard and never take a night off. Sure, the standings may be a bit stretched at the moment, but it doesn’t matter who you play on any given night, they can beat you. With roughly 15 games remaining in the KIJHL Regular season, each of Osoyoos, Summerland, Kelowna, North Okanagan, and Princeton still have their own individual battle to fight. Let’s start at the bottom. 

The Princeton Posse, once thought to not be in the picture to make the playoffs, are just three points back of the fourth place North Okanagan Knights. The Knights have struggled as of late going just 2-8 in their last 10, but are trying to keep their lead and fend off Princeton for that 4th and final playoff spot. 

The Kelowna Chiefs are right in the middle in the third spot. They have an 11 point cushion on the fourth place Knights, and trail the second place Summerland Steam by 10 points with Summerland holding one game in hand. 

Summerland, with that 10 point lead on Kelowna, sits in second in the division, five points back of the division leading Osoyoos Coyotes. If the season were to end today, Summerland would start the KIJHL Playoffs on home ice where they hold a 13-1-1-1 record. 

Things COULD change drastically at the top of the Okanagan Divison in the coming weeks, as the three teams at the top play each other a lot down the stretch. Summerland will see Kelowna and Osoyoos each four more times, while the Chiefs and Coyotes lock horns twice more. I would venture to guess that if any change occurs, it will be between the top two for the division title. 

Summerland and Osoyoos have always had a heated rivalry, and those four remaining meetings will surely be tightly contested as we head down the stretch to decide who earns the right to hang the banner at the end of the season. The next of those meetings comes January 13th in Osoyoos, but Summerland will have to focus on the Kelowna Chiefs first.

Staring down the barrel of their fifth meeting of the season, the Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs have played some entertaining hockey so far this year. Both teams have hosted the other twice, with the home team winning all four contests. All but one of the four thus far, a 4-1 Summerland win on December 3rd, have been decided by just a single goal and have been (mostly) entertaining. The last one in particular, a 5-4 win for the Chiefs in Rutland on December 17, was especially entertaining from a fan standpoint. 

Summerland will not be happy that they had a 2-0 lead on the road and gave up 5 unanswered goals before staging a comeback. Kelowna WILL be happy about those same facts and that they did it using no more than 12 skaters, but from a fan standpoint it was a lot of fun to be a part of. 

Since that game on December 17, the Chiefs have returned to (mostly) full man-power. Brett Witala, the KIJHL leader in goals with 22, is back from injury while Brody Dale, Tyler Love, Ty Dornn, Tyson Taylor and Kolten Carpenter have all returned from suspension and/or injury. 

Elliott Pickrell is the only member of the Chiefs still serving a suspension, and will serve his 5th and final game of a 5 game suspension on Friday night when the Chiefs visit the Summerland Arena. 

I would expect to see Tanner Marshall, the 16 year-old standout net minder for the Chiefs, in goal again for the visitors on Friday. Marshall, a Kelowna native and selectee for the 2017 KIJHL Top Prospects Showcase on January 14th in Kelowna, has been nothing short of stellar for the Chiefs so far this season. 

Being a 16 year-old rookie in the KIJHL is never easy, especially for a goaltender, but Marshall has made it look simple so far.  Carrying the load for Head Coach Jason Tansem so far, Marshall has started 22 games and compiled 11 wins and a .910% save percentage. 

It will be important for the Summerland Steam to create traffic in front of the Kelowna net and make sure whomever stands in it, Tanner Marshall or Brandon Gaucher, can’t easily see. 

The Steam have been doing this a little more of late, and it’s been a refreshing sight. For a lot of the early part of the season, Summerland spent a lot of their time working the perimeter of the ice and creating offense from the outside. Recently, Steam forwards have done a great job going to the front of the net and creating offense from in tight off rebounds and sharp passes from below the goal line. 

The newly formed line of Josh Pilon, Steven Fiust, and rookie Morey Babakaiff have led the charge in this regard, and are being rewarded for their efforts. Though Fiust hasn’t scored in 16 games, he drives this line with his puck skills and hockey smarts. He’s what hockey minds like to call ‘a heady player’, and creates offense for his linemates without much secondary effort. With 21 points (4g+17a) in his first 30 games as a member of the Steam, Fiust has fit in well on a line with longtime friend Josh Pilon. The two played together two seasons ago in Revelstoke, and have found that same chemistry this season in Summerland. 

Playing most of the season with Everett Scherger on their left side, recently Head Coach John Depourcq has moved rookie forward Morey Babakaiff up to the left side of Pilon and Fiust, both balancing out his lines and rewarding Babakaiff for continued hard work and vast improvement. 

Switching Scherger, a rabid pursuant of the puck, and Babakaiff allows more balance to Summerland’s lines. It allows Scherger to play with Ben Dietrich-Scammell and Braden Eliuk, helping that line in puck pursuit and creating more opportunity. 

It creates a more balanced attack for the Steam and allows them to roll 4 lines all the time, which is extremely important as we head towards the playoffs and the January 10 BC Hockey trading deadline. Being comfortable with all 22 players on the roster allows the Summerland Steam to relax and see how the chips fall, rather than have the stress of going out with a goal of landing a big acquisition for the stretch drive and playoff run. 

It’s all but a formality now, but with a Summerland victory and a Princeton Posse loss on Friday night the Steam will clinch their 4th straight playoff appearance. 

Summerland will look to take care of that piece of business on Friday night against the Kelowna Chiefs. Puck drop goes at 7:30pm Friday night, and Joel and I will have pre-game starting at 715 with a preview and some coaches audio.