For the first time in a long time, the Summerland Steam find themselves on a sort of losing streak. With a 9-3 drubbing at the hands of the Osoyoos Coyotes two Sunday’s ago (January 14), a 4-1 loss to the Chase Heat on Friday, and a 4-3 OT loss to the Kelowna Chiefs on Saturday night, the red, white and black clad Steam have lost three games in a row.
Heading into Saturday’s game in Kelowna, December 16th/17th, 2016 was the last time Summerland had even lost two in a row, and the Chiefs made it three thanks to Devin Sutton’s power play goal in OT that sealed the deal.
It’s been a long time since the Steam have lost three straight games. To save you going back through the archives to find it, I did, and the last time the team lost three in a row they actually lost four in a row, on a Kootenay road trip in mid-October of 2015.
That’s a pretty good run, and they’ll look to get back on track with a pair of games against divisional rivals coming this weekend. They’ll see the Osoyoos Coyotes on Friday at home, before heading for Armstrong on Saturday night to play the North Okanagan Knights.
If Summerland has any hopes of catching the Coyotes, and avoiding the suddenly high-powered Kelowna Chiefs in the first round of the KIJHL Playoffs, it has to start with two wins this weekend. The Steam sit 5 points back of the first place Coyotes, while the Chiefs are all of a sudden lurking just six points behind.
The secret to beating the Coyotes is long gone, and that’s to keep them off special teams. They feast on the power play and they don’t like to get hit, which means the Steam will have to find the physical line, ride it, and hope for a better officiating performance than the last time the two teams met, which was the worst I’ve ever seen.
Despite the season series score line between Summerland and Osoyoos this season (1-5 record, -14 goal differential), the games have been close and fun to watch. That fourteen goal difference can mostly be accounted for in two games, the 9-3 loss on January 14 and a 7-3 loss on October 2 8th. And the January 14th game was a 3-2 game headed to the third period.
If you strike those from the record, Summerland is losing close games to Osoyoos, and it’s time they find a way over the hump. They need to be physical on the forecheck, air tight in the defensive zone, and the emotions have to stay in check. If that happens, they’re right there with the first place team in the conference and they know it.
They’ll have to do it this Friday night without one of their best two-way forwards in 20-year old Blake Holowaty. Holowaty was hit with an automatic one game suspension after he was ejected from last Saturday’s game in Kelowna with 1:25 to play for checking from behind. He’ll be set to return Saturday in Armstrong when the Steam play the North Okanagan Knights.
The Steam did get Luke Jirousek back last weekend, and he scored a power play goal in each game despite the two losses. He’s a big asset to the Summerland Steam with his ability to use his body to create opportunities, and his blistering shot to convert those opportunities. They will likely count on him with Holowaty out on Friday night to play a few more minutes against a strong opponent in the Coyotes.
For the Coyotes, they’ll start their weekend early with a visit to Princeton on Wednesday to play the Posse. They then host Sicamous on Saturday night in Osoyoos. They’ve been without a couple of key pieces as of late as well, as Judd Repole and Cody Allen have both been missing from the Coyotes’ lineup due to (presumably) injury.
We’ll see if any of the injured on either side are available for Friday night’s game at the Summerland Arena, which should be a doozy.
Joel and I will have some help in the broadcast booth, as Mike Swanson will return and put on a headset after a couple of years away. Mike spent the 2014/15 and 15-16 seasons in the broadcast booth with us, before taking last year and most of this year off.
We’ll be on for pre-game starting at 7:15pm ahead of 7:30pm puck drop from the Summerland Arena.