Huber, Steam Come Up Clutch in Game 7 Victory 

📸 Jen Jensen Photography

What a difference a night and a circumstance can make. After getting beaten handily by the Kelowna Chiefs to the tune of 6-0 in Game 6, both the Chiefs and the Summerland Steam knew what was at stake. With the series tied 3-3, it came down to a Game 7 in a neutral environment to decide who would move on to face the Osoyoos Coyotes in the Okanagan Divison Final.

Game 7’s are the best spectacle in sports. When everything is on the line it seems to bring the best out of people, and teams, as they try to extend their season. This game seven, however, was unique in that it took place in a building that was largely unfamiliar to both parties. The game was played at the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton due to the District of Summerland working on their water system, making the ice unavailable at the Summerland Arena.

What we saw on Saturday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre was truly spectacular, and unlike any other game in this series. We saw two teams who absolutely did not want to go home, and brought their best to the table to try and get the job done. We had the privilege of watching them battle down to the very final second before we had a winner, and it was nothing short of exceptional to watch.

In front of a Steam record crowd of over 650, the home team opened the scoring with just :19 remaining in the first period. Steam defenseman Cole Williams would do a great job to get the puck deep into the Kelowna zone, where Morey Babakaiff skated onto it in the corner. Babakaiff found Calvin Rout in the slot, who out waited a Chiefs defender before finding a lane to shoot. Using Babakaiff as a screen, Rout was able to make a perfect shot low to the blocker side of Chiefs goaltender Brandon Gaucher, going post and in to give the Steam a 1-0 advantage.

They would take that advantage to the dressing room after out shooting the Chiefs 13-6 in the first frame, expecting a big push from the Chiefs in the second. The Chiefs would get that push, forcing Steam goaltender Matt Huber to stand tall in the Summerland crease for much of the rest of the game. The Steam did a great job for most of the night in front of their own net, clearing out rebounds before they became secondary scoring opportunities for the Chiefs. Several times it looked like the Chiefs would have wide open nets on rebounds, only to get beaten to the puck by a Steam stick by just a half second.

As good as his defence was in front of him, this night belonged to Matt Huber. After a rough go (his team was NOT very good) in games 4&6, Huber proved in Game 7 what he’s all about. He did well to control his rebounds and battled through anything that Kelowna brought his way, which was exactly what Summerland needed to win the biggest game or the year. Huber was excellent in this hockey game, particularly in the second period when Summerland got into a little penalty trouble.

Three straight penalties in the back half of the second period forced Summerland to the penalty kill for the better part of an eight minute stretch. In that stretch, Huber made four saves he had no business making to keep the score at a 1-0 Summerland lead. These saves included two that had him spinning around to dive to the other side to get to a Chiefs’ player camped out at the ‘back door’, and earned him a rousing cheer from the large crowd at the SOEC.

📸 Jen Jensen Photography

Wyatt Gale did score in the second period, a leaker through the wickets of Brandon Gaucher, but it was waved off by referee Brent Hazel due to a quick whistle.

Gale would get one that counted with about twelve minutes remaining in the third period to put Summerland up by two, proving to stand as the series clinching goal. After a turnover was forced behind the Chiefs’ net, Mike MacLean found Steven Fiust. Fiust had time and space for a shot, but instead found Gale open in front for the tap in to give the Steam the two goal cushion.

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Once up by two it was defensive shell  time for the Summerland Steam. They didn’t press, they didn’t defend aggressively, but simply stuck to their positions and let the Chiefs come to them. They used good stick checks and strong bodies to separate the Chiefs from pucks, and were able to clear the zone out of danger just enough times.

The Chiefs did beat Huber once, a Jason Village shot from in tight after a pass from Josh Kobelka. After an extremely long shift hemmed in their own zone, Summerland was unable to change their D pair. They were stuck, and the Chiefs top line took advantage of one of the only blown 5on5 coverages in the game to get on the board with just over seven minutes remaining.

After making it 2-1 the Chiefs really cranked up the heat, but Summerland stood tall. Good sticks, good bodies, and good clears from the zone helped them take Game 7 and move on to the Okanagan Divison Final for the third straight year.

📸Jen Jensen Photography

In the dressing room after the game, you’d never have guessed these players had played 7 of the most physical games of the season in the last 9 days. They were all smiles, beaming with pride, and ready for round 2.

They deserve it.

They worked hard for that series victory, and faced a little adversity along the way. I was once told “Good teams find a way to win,” and Summerland did in this series against Kelowna. It wasn’t easy, and they had to ‘win ugly’ a couple of times to make it happen, but they persevered through it all and came up big when it mattered most.

The Kelowna Chiefs didn’t play like a team that finished in third place by 27 points in this series. They played hard, physical, and right down to the bitter end in a game that could have gone either way. Congratulations to the Chiefs on a good season and an unbelievable playoff series. The Chiefs found ways to win without key cogs in their lineups at times, and I don’t think there was a question at ANY point in this series that Jason Village was continually their best player and their MVP in this series. The 18-year old from North Vancouver, BC, along with linemates Brett Witala and Josh Kobelka were the ones to carry the offensive load for the Chiefs through 7 games. Village led the way with 7 goals and 11 points while Witala, Kobelka and defenseman Joel Scrimbit each tallied 9 points. Village in particular was good in all 200 feet of ice, night in and night out, and after a very strong regular season, the Chiefs will get lucky if they get him back next season. It will be likely with numbers and intangibles like that, Village will no doubt catch on in Junior A somewhere in Western Canada if he so chooses, and will be successful in his endeavor based on his character and skill level.

The Chiefs power play really came alive in this playoff series after going just 1/46 during the eight game regular season series. In the seven game playoff series the Chiefs powerplay converted nine times on 37 opportunities, which converts to a percentage at nearly  45%. The Chiefs used their size and grit to make things difficult for the Summerland Steam in every square foot of ice that was up for grabs, and almost stole the thing in Game 7.

Yes, there was some nastiness to this series. On both sides. In Game 2 Calvin Hadley removed Chiefs goaltender Tanner Marshall from the series after taking a major penalty for goaltender interference. Hadley was subsequently suspended three games for the incident.

In Game 3 Brendan Mongey made a Kronwall-esque hit on Riley Pettitt in the middle of the ice, receiving a five minute major for head contact and subsequent two game suspension for his actions.

And those were just the majors.

In Game 4 Mike MacLean laid a clean open ice hit on Ryan Pereverzoff that knocked Pereverzoff from the remainder of the series. I was hoping to see Pereverzoff return to the series, as I really enjoy watching him play. He’s a big kid with good speed and a rocket of a shot, and he’s committed to the Univerity of Jamestown Jimmies (ACHA Division I) for the 2017/18 Season.

 

Tyler Love and Tyson Taylor continually got into it with anyone that would engage them all series long. Love played the role of agitator and it worked to a degree, frustrating Summerland into taking some penalties early in the series that they could have done without. Taylor, meanwhile, did the same until he was removed from Game 4 by referee Dustin Minty (for some unknown reason) and suspended three games for accumulated game misconduct penalties by the KIJHL, removing him from the remainder of the series.

There were no niceties exchanged in this hockey series. This is a rivalry that burns hot at the best of times and seems to have the heat turned to max every year when the playoffs come around. It was great to see that for a lot of this series the teams focused on playing hockey, and the best team on any given night picked up victories.

In this series Summerland had to play without one or more key forwards in every game, and every night it was a different guy in the lineup that stepped up and delivered the big performance when it mattered. That’s the mark of a great hockey team, a well coached hockey team, and a hockey team that is ready to do whatever it takes to get to where they want to go.

The Steam took care of business in Game 7 by playing ‘Steam Hockey’. By that I mean they got to work on the fore-check and made life difficult for the opposing defenders, and also bought into the back-check and defensive zone assignments. When that failed them, Matt Huber was there to stand tall, and that’s what you need in the playoffs.

I was especially impressed in this series with Summerland’s Everett Scherger, Calvin Rout and Morey Babakaiff. All three seem to be learning quickly from the veterans on the team how to be effective every single night, and especially how to pursue and retain control of the puck. All three play the game in all 200 feet of the ice, every shift, every time, and that’s what you need during the playoffs.

If you have the time to go on the KIJHL Archive to watch Game 7, it’s worth your time and $5 to watch from start to finish. If you don’t have that kind of time, have a watch over the highlights from Game 7, one hell of a hockey game that was BY FAR the best hockey game of the season between these two teams.

Highlights:

It’s fun to enjoy the victory and take a couple of days off but by the looks on the faces of those boys once Game 7 was over, you could tell that come Tuesday evening it’ll be time to be all business once again. There are obviously some bumps and bruises to heal over the next two days, but they’ll be ready to step on the ice for warm-up at 7:05 Tuesday night in Osoyoos.

For the third straight year the Osoyoos Coyotes are waiting at the end of a long Summerland/Kelowna series, well rested and ready to go after a short series with the fourth place team in the first round. A clash of the conference’s two best teams is the only way hockey fans want to see the Okanagan Division be settled, and it’s sure to be a dandy of a series for the third year in a row.

Keep eyes out for the preview of that series, coming likely sometime Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning prior to a Game 1 7:35pm puck drop in the desert.

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