Photo: IGA fundraiser for Summerland Food Bank. 📸 Suzen Marshall
As the month of October got underway on the KIJHL schedule, the Summerland Steam saw themselves out front of the division, two points clear of the surprising Princeton Posse. After two more wins this past weekend, the Steam now find themselves out in front of the rest of the Okanagan Shuswap Conference by a point. It’s been an impressive start for the Steam, who on Friday were finally able to ice their full twelve forward, six defenseman, two goaltender lineup for the first time all season.
The only player to not play a game in September, Liam McLaren, was cleared to return to the lineup on Friday giving Head Coach John Depourcq his full compliment of players to work with for the first time. They welcomed a Chase Heat squad fresh off an Okanagan Shuswap Conference title last season, who had ten returning players including their top four scorers.
The first period of the game Friday night was very back and forth, with Summerland’s Cody Swan scoring late in the period to give the Steam a 1-0 lead. Swan’s sixth of the year, assisted by Everett Scherger and Scott Robinson, put the home team up one headed to the break.
After the late goal, Summerland arrived for the second period as flat as could be. Chase took it to them for the majority of the period, and scored three times. They cashed in twice on their power play, first with Kolten Moore finishing his second of the season. Josh Bourne would then tack on an even strength marker just :29 seconds later, and Colten Nikiforuk would add the second powerplay tally late in the period.
Down 3-1, Summerland had some digging to do in the third period to come out with a victory. They did just that. Everett Scherger got the party started with his 5th of the season, and Blake Holowaty tallied his sixth to tie the game on a mad solo dash to the net just 1:12 later.
With the game tied at three, Summerland went to work on goaltender Connor Webb in the Chase crease, and he was able to stand tall through a near 6 minute onslaught where Summerland fired 12 shots on goal. Finally, with about seven minutes remaining, Sam Jones was able to tally his second of the season on a long screened shot that found the back of the net to give Summerland a 4-3 lead.
Knowing the Chase ‘counter punch’ was coming, Summerland did well to shut down the d-zone in the closing minutes, even taking two penalties and killing them off in the process. Everett Scherger would add a shorthanded empty netter, his 6th goal of the year, to seal the deal and allow Summerland to take home a 5-3 victory. The line of Everett Scherger (2g+1a), Cody Swan (1g+2a) and Scott Robinson (3A) combined for nine points in the victory.
A night later, it was the Kamloops Storm on the visitors bench in the Summerland Arena. The Steam were able to head home with a 7-3 victory, but it wasn’t as easy as the scoreline might indicate. After picking up rather easy 6-2 and 5-2 wins in the first two meetings of the season, Summerland was provided a much stiffer test from a Kamloops team that continues to come together while adding some veteran pieces. Recently returned Hayden Dick and Dario Piva both suited up for the Storm on Saturday night, though Dick was ejected and ultimately suspended for a kneeing incident in the second period.
After Riley Smoler (4), Gavin Lawrie (4) and Blake Holowaty (7) scored to put Summerland up 3-1, Dick cut across the middle of the ice and hung his leg to make a hit inside the Summerland zone. He caught Steam forward Lukas Jirousek in a nasty knee-on-knee collision, that felled Jirousek and forced him to miss the remainder of Saturday night’s game.
That was about the extent of the fireworks, as the Storm would make it 3-2 before Summerland answered with what would eventually be the game winner from Morey Babakaiff, his second of the season. Kamloops’ River Ross would then close the gap to start the third period with his 3rd of the season, before Summerland would restore their two goal lead and build from there. Gavin Lawrie scored to make it 5-3, his second of the night and fifth of the season after some great forecheck work from Everett Scherger.
Blake Holowaty would then score shorthanded into an empty net to make it 6-3, before Summerland would tack on another from Liam McLaren on the power play to close out the scoring. McLaren’s first KIJHL goal came on the powerplay, as he tipped a shot from the point to make it 7-3 and close out the scoring.
Matt Huber was solid in the Summerland crease when called upon, stopping 22 of 25 shots faced as Summerland picked up their 8th victory of the season.
The victory propels Summerland to the top of the KIJHL standings with 16 points through 10 games, and remain 2 points up on the Princeton Posse who kept pace with a 2-1 victory over the North Okanagan Knights.
Summerland will see those Knights when they hit the ice for game action again, as their next game comes at home against North Okanagan on Friday, October 13th. This weekend Summerland had a little bit of trouble in the second period of both games. In the first period of each game they came out ready to play, and found themselves lagging a bit during second period action. Neither victory was a ‘complete’ 60 minutes, but they got the job done and that’s what’s important. They’ll need a 60 minute effort twice next weekend, as they get the Knights at home on Friday before travelling into the desert to face the Osoyoos Coyotes on Saturday night, their first visit to the Sun Bowl this season.