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. 

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