Chiefs Win Return Match as Division Standings Tighten

After a 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Chiefs on Tuesday night last week, the Summerland Steam expected them to come back hard on Saturday night looking for a victory. Meeting for the second time in under a week and fourth time in 47 days, the two teams have become familiar with one another and are playing each other extremely tough as of late. Summerland had won all three meetings coming into Saturday night, with all three being closely played games.

Both teams being incredibly shorthanded offensively on Saturday night, the game left a little to be desired in that offensive category. Kelowna was without leading goal scorer and captain Brett Witala, as they will be for some time as he recuperates from a broken thumb/hand, as well as diminutive forward Brendan Mongey. Mongey, as talented as they come offensively and a gifted special teams player, was suspended 6-games by the KIJHL for this hit on Summerland defenseman Bailey Tamminga in the previous matchup on Tuesday night:

The Chiefs were also missing Lane Paddison, Devin Sutton, and starting goaltender Aris Anagnostoupolos. Max Gaudet would start in place of Anagnostopoulos and be forced to make just 19 saves.

For Summerland they remained without Luke Jirousek, Blake Holowaty, and Everett Scherger, as well as defenceman Noah Kallichuk. All are listed as day-to-day, with the hope that all will be available as Summerland starts their December schedule on Friday against North Okanagan in Armstrong. Defenceman Ryan Allen left Saturday night’s game with a lower-body injury and did not return, leaving his status for this coming weekend questionable at this point in time.

On Saturday night against the Chiefs, it was clear early on that whoever was going to win was going to have to grind one out. The game didn’t have a lot of flow, and scoring chances came few and far between as the teams skated to a 0-0 draw after the first period.

Cody Swan would net his 14th of the season near the midway mark of the period, managing to be the last one to touch the puck out of a scrum before it found the back of the Kelowna goal. Morey Babakaiff and Scott Robinson would draw assists on the goal that put Summerland up 1-0.

Kaden Stewart would reply for the Chiefs, converting on a power play with 4:41 remaining in the second period to tie the game at 1 after 40 minutes. That would be the only scoring we would see, netting each team a point as we headed for 4on4 overtime.

In the extra frame, former Summerland Steam defender Cole Williams would factor in setting up Tyler Love on a 2-on-1. Williams picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and was able to burn down the left side before feeding Love a cross-crease pass that he made no mistake on to give the Chiefs the 2-1 overtime win.

The three point game between Summerland and Kelowna tightened things up considerably in the Okanagan Division standings. Summerland picked up a crucial point and actually extended their lead over the Osoyoos Coyotes to eight points, as the ‘Yotes fell 7-5 to the 100 Mile House Wranglers. This came one night after the Coyotes put the boots to the Princeton Posse by an 8-0 score at the Princeton & District Arena on Friday night.

The Chiefs were the only Okanagan Division team to pick up four points on the weekend, vaulting them into a tie for second place with the Coyotes. Princeton was able to beat the North Okanagan Knights by a 6-3 score on Saturday to keep pace, but fall to fourth place, a point behind Kelowna and Osoyoos.

As mentioned, Summerland has managed to maintain their division lead against one of the toughest divisions in the KIJHL. They’ve done so while battling the injury bug and struggling on special teams, which is impressive against the quality of competition they’ve been up against. The power play has been particularly concerning for Summerland, in fact they may just want to begin declining them, as they’re mired in an 0/46 slump. Their last power play goal came October 27, 2017 in the third period against the Chiefs, by Luke Jirousek.

They’ll likely be working on getting back to basics in practice this week, trying to get pucks and traffic to the front of the goal to see if they can get an ugly one to bump the slump on Friday when they pay a visit to the North Okanagan Knights. It’s a big weekend for the Steam as they play two road games, in Armstrong to face the Knights Friday and in Princeton to play the Posse on Saturday. It’s imperative they come up with four points in those two games if they want to see their lead continue to stay at eight points out front.

Steam Down Chiefs With Rematch Looming Saturday

The Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs don’t like each other. That much can be said as fact. When you play a team nearly thirty times in two seasons including playoffs, that can happen, and it usually produces pretty good hockey. It has so far in 2017/18, as the Steam and the Chiefs met for the third time on Tuesday night at the Summerland Arena.

Their first meeting was a 5-2 Summerland victory that included an empty net goal, and the last two have been one goal Summerland wins, with the last one coming in overtime and Tuesday night’s game ending in a 4-3 score in regulation time.

It’s a matchup of 1st and 4th in the Okanagan Division standings, but these games are always tight and filled with fire.

Summerland came in after going 1-1 on the weekend, falling 4-2 in Chase on Friday before coming up with a big 5-2 win over Princeton at home on Saturday night. They’d been doing it recently without four big time bodies in their lineup as Blake Holowaty, Luke Jirousek, Morey Babakaiff, and Bailey Tamminga had been out of the lineup dealing with various ailments.

Tamminga and Babakaiff returned to the lineup on Tuesday, giving a big boost to Summerland both on offense and defense. The Chiefs are having their share of injury trouble as well, as they played on Tuesday with just 15 skaters.

Despite having the short bench, the Chiefs got out to a good start as 18-year old rookie standout Juanre Naude beat Matt Huber high over the glove just 3:15 into the first period on the Chiefs first power play. Naude made a great solo dash up the ice, beat two Summerland players and used his speed to get around the outside edge, before beating Matt Huber high on the short side to give the Chiefs the early advantage.

The first fifteen minutes of the game was all Kelowna Chiefs, outshooting the Steam 8-2 in that time span and being led up front by big minute man Brendan Mongey. Mongey, counted on to play all over the ice in the absence of injured Chiefs captain Brett Witala, was all over the place in the first period. He started the game centering a line between Naude on the right side, and former Summerland Steam defender Cole Williams on the left side. Williams, normally a defenseman, has made the move up front for the time being as the Chiefs skate missing five forwards.

With Kelowna dominating play through the first period and doing a great job using their speed through the neutral zone, it looked like it might be a long night for the Summerland Steam. Just as the Chiefs were about to finish a great period of hockey, a myriad of penalties allowed Summerland to gain some momentum back. These weren’t penalties that resulted in man advantage situations, but penalties that took both Mongey and Chiefs defender Jarin Sutton off the ice. Sutton and Ethan Grover got tied up and were each assessed two minutes, while Mongey stepped off the bench to involve himself in an altercation and picked up a 10-minute misconduct for his trouble.

Summerland was then able to exploit the middle of the ice to tie the game at 1 in the final minute of the first period, courtesy of Sammy Gabriel’s first KIJHL goal with just :47 on the clock. A good hold at the offensive blue line by Niall Lawrie started the play, and Sam Jones got three cracks at a shot before a puck finally ricocheted to Gabriel in the slot. He was able to beat Chiefs starting goaltender Aris Anagnastopoulos on the blocker side to tie the game and send the teams to the dressing room locked at a goal apiece.

Summerland had a much better second period than they did in the first. They carried the majority of the play, but found themselves trailing when Julian Fodor notched his second of the year for the Chiefs just 4:12 into the frame. Morey Babakaiff would draw the Steam back even just 2:08 later, taking a cross-zone pass from Bailey Tamminga and beating Anagnostopoulos on the short side to tie the game at 2.

Summerland would then take the lead late in the second period thanks to their captain, Sam Jones. He received a pass up the right wing wall from forward Liam McLaren, and was able to dance two Chiefs defenders before making a perfectly placed shot past a standing Anagnostopoulos to give the Steam a 3-2 lead.

That lead would stay safe through the remainder of the second and most of the third period, and Summerland would have a chance to build on it courtesy of this hit from Chiefs F Brendan Mongey:

Mongey would be assessed a 5-minute major for Head Contact plus the attached game misconduct, as well as a Match Penalty on the play, and resulted in a 5-minute power play for Summerland. The victim of the hit, Steam defenseman Bailey Tamminga, was helped off the ice and down the tunnel where he went through the appropriate testing for a concussion. He was able to return to the game about twelve minutes after the hit, but only played a couple more shifts on the night.

Summerland would get nothing out of their power play, despite having 2 minutes of 5-on-3 during that span, and the Chiefs gained some momentum from the kill. They pushed forward, and finally broke through thanks to the recently returned Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise. He picked up a loose puck in the right wing corner and from an angle we all thought impossible, slipped it into the top corner on the short side above Matt Huber to tie the game at three with 6:12 remaining.

It looked like we were destined for another overtime matchup, as neither team looked very interested in taking chances at goal in the final few minutes. Summerland, however, got the opportunity they needed with just under three minutes remaining. Morey Babakaiff was able to pick off a clearing attempt from Kelowna goaltender Aris Anagnostopoulos on the left wing boards. He had a shot at goal that Anagnostopoulos did a great job to get back in the net for, but the rebound popped straight out front to a waiting Ethan Grover in the high slot. He made no mistake, pounding his fifth of the season into the back of the net to give the Steam their lead back with 2:45 to play.

It was all Summerland needed as they would hang on for the 4-3 victory thanks to a blocked shot by Everett Scherger, who used his face to deflect a puck away at the final buzzer to secure the Summerland victory. The two points saw Summerland to have their lead atop the Okanagan Division climb to nine points. That nine point gap over the second place Osoyoos Coyotes could evaporate very quickly, however, as the Coyotes have built up four games in hand. They’ll use one of those games when they take on the Princeton Posse on Friday night while Summerland is idle.

The Steam will take Friday night off this week and enjoy Summerland’s 30th Annual Festival of Lights. Lights come on at 7, but with all the fun activities and food happening downtown, it will surely be a full night event that will end with fireworks sometime between 8 and 9pm.

The Steam are back in action again Saturday night at home against these same Kelowna Chiefs, and I’d venture to guess that you won’t want to miss it. Joel and I will have full pre-game starting at 7:15pm on ahead of a 7:30pm opening face-off at the Summerland Arena.



Chase Awaits after 1-1 Set With Knights

This past week, the Summerland Steam played two games against the North Okanagan Knights. On Friday the team travelled to Armstrong for the first time this season, and came up lame in a disappointing 4-1 loss. It was a case of North Okanagan playing their game and never taking a shift off, and Summerland being just not quite good enough on the road. Alec McLeod scored twice for the Knights on the night, while Ben Josinnet and Brady Marzocco added singles and Zach Willms made 32 saves for the victory. Riley Smoler scored the lone goal for the Steam, his ninth of the season, in the losing effort that saw Owen Petten take the loss in goal while making 25 saves.

In the game Friday night, the Steam had a glimpse back to the not so distant past, as both Morey Babakaiff and Blake Holowaty left injured. Holowaty was particularly worrisome, as he was the recipient of a low hit in the neutral zone that flipped him end over end. The 20-year old Steam forward landed squarely on his head and neck, and had to be helped off the ice, obviously not returning to the hockey game.

Both he and Babakaiff would miss the return match, which took place Tuesday night at the Summerland Arena. The Steam welcomed Everett Scherger back to the lineup after missing nine games due to an injury, which is a huge boost to the team. Scherger used his feistiness and fore-checking ability to cause problems all night on route to a 7-4 Summerland victory.

Cody Swan scored twice (12,13), while Ryan Allen added his first KIJHL goal on a nice shot from the point that found the top corner over the blocker of Zach Willms midway through the first period. The Knights would score two in the first as well, one each from Tyler Olson and Dean Whitcomb, to keep the score tied. The Whitcomb goal came shorthanded in the final minute of the period, as the Steam are still having one heck of a time getting their power play to click.

They were able to strike, and quickly, in the first half of the second period. Cairo Rogers (4), Luke Jirousek (9) , and Gavin Lawrie (7) each scored a goal in the span of 1:31 to break a 2-2 tie up into a 5-2 Summerland lead. The Knights wisely took their timeout after the third goal to collect themselves, and it seemed to help as they were able to claw back with two more goals before the end of the period.

The second period was low-lighted by a multiple fight situation near the midway mark of the period. Jason Shaigec of the Knights hung a knee on Summerland forward Riley Smoler at the Steam blue line, and both Smoler’s linemates, Gavin Lawrie and Luke Jirousek, took exception. Jirousek shed his gloves to confront Shaigec, who tried to sneak to the North Okanagan bench as quickly as possible. Levi Harris stepped in his place to take on Jirousek, and while that was going on Gavin Lawrie and Brady Marzocco dropped the gloves as well.

Jirousek and Harris, being the first ones to drop mitts, were only assessed their regular five-minute major penalties for fighting. Gavin Lawrie and Brady Marzocco will both miss their team’s next game, as they were the second fight in a multiple fight situation.

After that was resolved, the Knights got their goals to make things close again. Tyler Olson notched his second of the night, while Ben Jossinet added the other to cut the Steam lead to 5-4 after two periods.

In the third, the Steam took over. They would only add one goal, that from Everett Scherger exactly 5:00 in, before adding an empty netter from Swan to seal things up. Matt Huber made 17 saves for his 11th victory of the season, while Zach Willms made 23 saves in the losing effort.

Summerland will now look forward to another meeting with the Chase Heat and KIJHL leading scorer Josh Bourne. Bourne leads the team and the league with 38 points (18G+20A) in just 18 games played. Bourne is followed closely by Summerland’s Scott Robinson, who added 4 more assists last week in those two games against the Knights, and sits second in league scoring with 36 points (12G+24A).

 The Heat are led by five key returning players in both the scoring department and the leadership department. Bourne, along with Kolten Moore, Kaden Black, Pat Brady and Zachary Fournier create one of the most potent offenses, and power plays, in the KIJHL. The Heat thrive on their power play, converting 29 of 110 opportunities, a 26.36% clip and good for 2nd in the KIJHL and first in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference.

Special teams is somewhere that the Summerland Steam have struggled so far in 2017/18, so it would make sense to try and keep the conference’s best PP unit off the ice as much as possible.

It will be a matchup of the best two teams in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference, Summerland sitting with 30 points through 20 games, while Chase has 26 points through 21 games played. 

Summerland will need to continue doing what they like to do, which is get in on the forecheck and make things difficult for opposing defenders. They’ve done a great job of it through nearly half the season, and that’s what they’ll have to do to beat a really good hockey club in Chase on Friday night. 

They’ll have to do so without Gavin Lawrie, who sits a one game suspension for his altercation with North Okanagan Knights forward Brady Marzocco on Tuesday night. Both were suspended one game for being the second fight in the same stoppage in play. Blake Holowaty and Morey Babakaiff, along with Bailey Tamminga, missed Tuesday’s game and are listed as questionable for this weekend’s games as well. It would be a big boost to the club to get even one of those players back, let alone all three.  

For the Steam it’s the start of a tough three game stretch over the course of five days. They’re in Chase tonight, who are in first place in the Doug Birks Divison. They’ll return home tomorrow for a clash with the Princeton Posse, who sit second in the Okanagan Division, followed by a home date with the Kelowna Chiefs on Tuesday night. Both Steam home games will start at 7:30pm. 

Big Wheels Keep On Turning as Steam Pick Up Two More Wins

📸 Victoria Rich 

The Summerland Steam are the best team in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference through 18 games played. That’s something that most around the league would be surprised at as we enter the league’s third month, with Summerland looking to build on their division and conference lead. They did so this past weekend, picking up wins in a pair of games against the North Okanagan Knights and the Sicamous Eagles, both by 4-1 scores.

On Friday night, the Steam took it to the North Okanagan Knights from the moment the puck dropped, and although the shots in the first period were fairly close, the Steam dominated the pace of play and set the tempo early. Scott Robinson scored a pair of goals (10,11) and added a pair of assists, vaulting him to the top of the conference’s points leaders list with 30 on the season. Cody Swan (10) and Blake Holowaty (14) would add the other two goals, while Matt Huber made 17 saves in the victory.

On Sunday evening, the Steam would head to Sicamous for a meeting with the Eagles. Robinson was at it again, adding a goal (12) and an assist to bring his point total to 32 on the season and help the Steam to another 4-1 victory. Summerland was boosted on Sunday by the return of Morey Babakaiff and Riley Smoler to their lineup after returning from an injury and a suspension, respectively. Smoler scored twice (7,8) in the game, including the game winner in the second period on a 2-on-1 with Simon Snyman. Cody Swan (11) would score the other goal for the Steam, while Owen Petten picked up the victory with a solid 38 save performance in goal.

Summerland, as mentioned, was bolstered on Sunday by the return of two of their regulars in Smoler and Babakaiff. The team is slowly beginning to get back to their full roster, as the only missing bodies are now Everett Scherger and Bailey Tamminga. Both are expected back within the next couple of weeks, and could potentially give Head Coach John Depourcq his full compliment of available players for the first time this season as we near the halfway point.

Noah Kallichuk, the newest member of the Steam defense corps, played both games this weekend and looked solid in his Steam debut. The 6′ 2″, 170lb defenseman from Beaver County, AB, moves well and distributes the puck with next level ability. He wasn’t credited with a point, but he started the play that led to probably the prettiest goal Summerland’s scored to date on Friday night against the Knights. He’s made sound defensive plays thus far, and makes a good first pass out of the zone to start up ice, which is something sorely needed by every team.

The Steam will be on the road this weekend, with a Friday night date in Armstrong to face the Knights. They’re on home ice again Tuesday, November 14th at 7:30pm when those same Knights make their fourth and final visit of the season to the Summerland Arena.