📸 Jen Jensen Photography
It’s been a long year grinding it out in the KIJHL’s Okanagan Divison. That was never more evident than the second round of the KIJHL playoffs, where the Summerland Steam were swept by the Osoyoos Coyotes in four straight games. After battling injury and illness all season to the tune of a 34-9-1-3 record, the Steam simply had nothing left in the tank after a 7 game gem against the Kelowna Chiefs in Round 1.
Missing bodies (and energy) with only two days off between series’, it looked like the Steam may steal one of the two games in Osoyoos to start the series. They did well to stick with the Coyotes and force overtime in Game 1 and hung on for dear life through nearly 23:00 of overtime, but Austin Cleaver eventually scored to pick up the victory for the Yotes.
Much of the same was the case in Game 2, less the overtime. The Coyotes got up early, Summerland did well to come back and tie, but the first place and well rested Coyotes were just too much for the second place Steam.
Game 3 was the turning point of the series, from my point of view. That was the game that I could tell the engine was running on fumes, and Summerland gave it a HELL of an effort despite being banged up worse than even I knew. At the start of Game 3 on Friday night in Summerland, it looked like the Steam were ready to make this a long series. By the end, you could tell they didn’t have much left in the tank.
They came out like they were shot from a cannon in Game 3, going up 2-0 just 7 minutes into the hockey game. They looked like they might make this thing a series for a while, going up 4-2 after the Coyotes came back to tie. The Yotes would come back to tie again, and eventually take a 6-4 victory on two goals in the final 7 minutes of the game to take a commanding 3-0 series lead.
In Game 3 the penalty kill, a pillar of strength for the Steam all season long and the best one in the league, allowed the Coyotes to score four times on six opportunities. If you want to win hockey games that can’t happen, and it ended up being the turning point of the series.
The penalty kill would ail them again in Game 4, giving up the series winning goal to Coyotes forward Judd Repole on the powerplay with just over five minutes remaining in the second period. They made an effort to jumpstart a comeback in the third period, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
The Coyotes did a great job to shut Summerland down in these four games, and when Summerland did get things going in the Coyotes zone goaltender Adam Jones was there to come up big when necessary. The Yotes stuck to their system, and used their strengths to their advantage in this series against a tired Summerland team who was worn out from the grind of a 7 game series in Round 1.
It pays to get round 1 finished as soon as possible, and the Coyotes did so in sweeping the North Okanagan Knights. They earned their days off, and used them wisely to rest up while Summerland and Kelowna beat the crap out of each other all the way to the end of Game 7.
The Coyotes move on to the Okanagan Shuswap Final, a Best of 5 series against the winners of the Doug Birks Division, the Chase Heat. The Heat won their way to the conference Final after a 4-2 victory in Game 6 against the Kamloops Storm on Sunday.
For the Steam they’ll pack their bags, some for the final time, and head out after the awards banquet this week. It will be especially tough to say goodbye to this group of players, including the five 20 year olds who we’ve watched grow up for the past three or four seasons.
Alex Williams, the captain of this year’s edition of the Summerland Steam, will say goodbye after four seasons as one of the most rugged defenders the KIJHL has ever seen. Calvin Hadley will also move on to life after the KIJHL, having spent the past 3.5 seasons in red, white and black.
The Yukon Line will also move on to life after the KIJHL. While the departure of Jarrett Malchow, Riley Pettitt, and Wyatt Gale may be a happy sign to most of the players and teams that had to play against them for the past three seasons, it will surely be a sad day for the Summerland Steam. From the moment the three arrived from Whitehorse, Yukon, the Steam knew they had something special.
Pettitt, Gale, and Malchow, who’ve played together for the majority of their hockey playing lives, wreaked havoc on the KIJHL from the moment they set foot in it. They combined to play 288 games in white, black and red, amassing 130 goals, 196 assists, and 610 penalty minutes. Gale and Pettitt finish in the Top 5 in franchise history in goals, while Pettitt sits second in assists with 81, a single assist behind former teammate and captain Paulsen Lautard. Pettitt also sits second to teammate and fellow graduating player Calvin Hadley on the Steam’s All-time list for penalty minutes. Hadley leads Pettitt by more than 100 in this category at 470.
The Yukon Line’s ability to know where one another are on the ice is seen an asset even before you get into their relentless forechecking ability or their ability to create offense from what looks like nothing at all.
They’ve been leaders on this team since the time they arrived here, and they’ll be missed when the start of the 2017/18 KIJHL season opens in September. I hope they’ll leave with as fond of memories as they leave us with, because they’ve been a joy to watch and interact with all the way through.
The team will wrap up the 2016/17 season on Wednesday evening with an awards celebration at the I.O.O.F Hall in downtown Summerland. They will hold a meet and greet with the players at 6:30, and awards from 7-9pm. All fans are encouraged to attend, with admission being a small donation at the door on the way in.