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.