Weekend Split Has Steam Chasing 

If you wanted entertainment and a night out in Summerland, BC, last Friday night was a good night to do it. The Summerland Steam and the Osoyoos Coyotes played one of the most interesting games of the season to date, with a surprise ending that even Spielberg couldn’t have written. 
Summerland, looking to close the gap on the division leading Coyotes, opened the scoring in a game that they needed badly to keep up with the division leaders. Riley Pettitt notched his 20th, beating Coyotes goaltender Liam Aitken after a good feed from Levi Johnson in neutral ice. Affiliate Player Bailey Tamminga would pick up his first KIJHL point on the play as he moved the puck through the neutral zone to Johnson. He then fed to Pettitt, who went high over the right handed glove of Aitken. 

Cody Allen’s first of the season would follow, surprise surprise, on a Coyotes powerplay. A great feed cross ice from Sam Reinbolt found the stick of Allen for the one timer, and he made no mistake in beating Steam starter Matt Huber. 

Judd Repole would add his first of two on the night on another Coyotes powerplay just a few minutes later to put the visitors up 2-1 after a period. 

Wyatt Gale would tally the only goal of the second period, a tip in front, for his 20th of the season to tie things at 2. After a faceoff win in the offensive zone by Braden Eliuk, Matt Alcorn threw a puck at goal where Gale tipped it past Aitken while eluding a defender. 

The ‘Yotes would then take a 3-2 lead on Cody Allen’s second of the night early in the third period. After extended zone pressure by Osoyoos, Allen let a shot go from the left point. The puck went wide of the goal, but bounced off the end boards, out off Matt Huber, and into the back of the net to give the visitors their lead back.

The Coyotes lead wouldn’t last long, as Mike MacLean would answer for the Steam with a great solo effort. After stripping the puck from a Coyotes forward in neutral ice, MacLean found himself streaking into the zone all alone as his linemates changed. He was able to beat Aitken for his 5th of the season with a low, hard shot through a defender’s legs, tying the game at three. 

MacLean would be at it again shortly thereafter, with about 6:30 to go, as he and Morey Babakaiff found themselves in on the forecheck. They were able to strip the puck and find a wide open Calvin Rout in the slot, who beat a helpless Aitken to give the Steam the lead. 

Up 4-3 with just over six minutes to play, Summerland looked to have gained control. They did good work for the next couple of minutes to dictate play, and actually forced the Coyotes to take a penalty with just over three to play. 

They were unable to cash in on their powerplay, but did kill a full two minutes from the clock, taking them down to just over a minute to play. That’s when things went sideways. 

Two failed clears, one with about :54 seconds to play and one with about :15 seconds to play, allowed the Coyotes to score two goals on two 50+ foot screen shots in the final minute of play. Judd Repole scored the first, his second of the night, on a tip in front of Huber with :49 seconds remaining. Austin Steger would then send one through traffic with :11 seconds remaining to break the tie and send the Coyotes home with 2 points and a 5-4 victory. 

Yes, it was frustrating to watch, and surely frustrating to play, but that’s the beauty of junior hockey. Things can change in quick order, and on Friday night it took just under a minute for Summerland to see what could have been a three point deficit go to seven. It’ll make catching the Coyotes for first in the conference a very difficult task for the Summerland Steam.

The positives in the game Friday against Osoyoos were really good ones. The Steam were shorthanded due to both injury and illness, and managed to find a way to stay in the game despite missing Jarrett Malchow, Everett Scherger, and Konsta Jaske from their lineup. Affiliate defenseman Bailey Tamminga was terrific in relief, and did well when he was put in key situations by Head Coach John Depourcq including special teams, and late in the game. 

Summerland could have been within three points and still maintained a game in hand. Instead the Coyotes now find themselves up 7 points with 6 games to go, 2 of them at the Summerland Arena. 

After the debilitating loss Friday, Summerland Steam knew they needed to bounce back. Surely the message from Head Coach John Depourcq was to not dwell, and “get back on the horse” the next night in Revelstoke. 

The Revelstoke Forum, home to the Revelstoke Grizzlies, was LOUD on Saturday night as it was ‘Aussie Night’. All the employees from the Revelstoke Mountain Resort were in the house, and got to watch another entertaining contest.

This time Summerland would come out on top by the 5-4 score, powered by a double overtime winner by Scott Robinson. Wyatt Gale scored twice, Riley Pettitt also tallied, and Steven Fiust notched his 5th of the year in regulation. Robinson would then score in 3on3 overtime to give the Steam the 5-4 victory and Jared Breitkreuz his 8th win of the season. 

The two points in Revelstoke were definitely welcome. Summerland was a team this weekend that was missing an element to it’s game with Malchow, Scherger and Jaske out of the lineup, and it was great to see them pull together to play two pretty good hockey games. 

They finished the month of January with a 7-1 record, with the lone loss coming to the Coyotes last Friday. In their last 15 contests dating back to December 3 the Steam carry an 11-2-1-1 record, so they’re doing just fine. 

The Steam finish the month of January with higher than average totals in a lot of categories. They scored over a full goal more than their 4.00 goals per game average, netting 5.31 goals per game in 2017’s first month. They also, however, gave up a full goal more than their 2.32 goals against per game average, allowing an average of over 3.00 goals per game in January. 

Riley Pettitt and Wyatt Gale carried the bulk of the offensive load in the month, collecting 18 points (9g+9a) and 15 points (6g+9a) respectively in eight games. Both SHOULD be up for the KIJHL’s Okanagan Shuswap Conference Player of the Month Award when it is announced later this week. 

The Yukon Line did a lot of the scoring for Summerland during January, but they definitely didn’t do it alone. Every player on the roster, including AP defenseman Bailey Tamminga, chipped in with at least a point through eight games in January. Brogan Lautard, Braden Eliuk and Konsta Jaske, as a matter of fact, were the only Steam players not to tally a goal in the month.

It’s a wonderful thing to have the depth that Head Coach John Depourcq has to work with. It begins to come in handy at this time of year when injuries from a long season begin to mount, and the playoffs loom. The KIJHL Playoffs are a different grind than most other leagues, as teams are required to fit 7 games into 9 day windows in the first three rounds. Easy math says there’s a potential to play 21 games in 27 days, which is almost exactly a half a KIJHL season in less than one month. For contextual purposes, Summerland started their season on September 9th, and played their 21st game 64 days later in Chase on November 12th. That’s a lot of hockey to be played over a 27 day period if you have to play three seven game series’. Due to these kinds of numbers, there’s certainly a premium put on winning a series in four or five games. Surely that’s the preference of most teams looking to make a deep run, including the Summerland Steam. 

That’s still three weeks away for the boys in black, red, and white, and with 7 games remaining it will give them a chance to fine tune as they stare down a potential first round meeting with the Kelowna Chiefs for a third straight year. 

They’ll see those Chiefs twice more before the playoffs, however, including this Saturday night at the Summerland Arena. The Chiefs are a hard-nosed, talented hockey team that can be very difficult to deal with. The Steam have had their successes with the Chiefs so far, going 4-2 in six meetings to date, but they’ll have to be sharp to beat a team that does not like to lose. 

Puck drop will be at 730pm and Joel Barg and I will have full pregame starting at 715pm on Playfullscreen.com. 

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