It’s been a roller coaster of up’s and down’s in the past week for the Summerland Steam. They started the weekend early, with a Wednesday night meeting in Princeton against the hometown Posse. It was a Game similar to the last visit to Princeton, where Summerland dominated possession and zone time, but spent a lot of time shorthanded and were able to hang around.
Through 2 periods they were down 2-0, but that changed quickly as goals from Ethan Grover and Morey Babakaiff tied things at two early in the third. Both teams would battle through penalty trouble, going back and forth without converting on the power play.
It looked like Princeton was going to get their chance with 1:16 remaining, as Summerland took the final penalty of the game and were forced to kill. Blake Holowaty, however, had different ideas on how it was going to end. Holowaty forced a turnover at the Summerland blue line and took off up the right side.
He took a perfect pass from Morey Babakaiff, and went in alone on Princeton goaltender Bobby Milligan, beating him over the glove hand shoulder to put Summerland up 3-2 and ultimately seal the victory.
Summerland then sat and watched as they had Friday and Saturday off. Of course, every KIJHL team had Saturday off, as their best young players came together in Kelowna to play in the 2018 KIJHL Top Prospects Showcase. The Kootenay Conference got the better of the Okanagan Shuswap squad, which included Summerland’s Cody Swan and Luke Jirousek, by a 7-3 score.
On Sunday, Summerland got right back to work with a visit to the tiny ice in Oliver, and a meeting with the Osoyoos Coyotes. It didn’t go well for them, though it started with them opening the scoring. Cory Loring notched his 12th of the season and third in four games as a member of the Steam, to put them up 1-0 midway through the first period.
Enter referee Dave McMann.
I don’t normally harp on referees, because it’s a thankless job and without them, we have no game. Unfortunately, however, on Sunday afternoon we watched another game, which should have been one of the best of the year, be marred by controversy surrounding a referee being the talking point. Good referees tend to make themselves as small as possible, only chiming in when absolutely necessary, keeping a subtle, yet strong command of the happenings on the ice while enforcing the rules to the best of their abilities.
That was not the case on Sunday afternoon.
McMann began the game allowing the Steam and the Coyotes to wail away on one another for the first ten or so minutes, with the bare minimum being called penalties. All of a sudden, just past the ten minute mark, while under derress from both benches and both sides of the stands, the things that were going uncalled in the first ten minutes began being called. It stayed that way for the remainder of the game, and the Coyotes got caught less than Summerland did.
Neither team was more guilty than the other. Both were physical, mean, and did some very silly things to one another, which is conducive to small ice and tight quarters. Summerland just got caught more. Simple as that.
All afternoon on both sides of the building I heard fans pining for the 4-man system recently put in place by the VIJHL league wide. While it’s a great idea, in theory, I think it would be more prevalent to add more officiating training for current officials, before adding more demand to a refereeing system that already struggles to find officials. Games like these need 4 officials, no doubt, but if three is the only option then they surely need to be better equipped than the crew this past Sunday.
The game that started fast, physical, and evenly played ended in a 9-3 rout for the Coyotes, thanks to 6 power play goals on 14 (!!) power play opportunities.
Summerland wasn’t able to convert on their four chances, only one of which was a full 2 minutes. The other three came when Osoyoos took penalties while already on the power play (which they don’t do often). Summerland was undisciplined in this game, no doubt, but based on the way it was played from both sides, the penalty differential probably SHOULD have been 4, not 10.
Colin Bell and Austin Cleaver each registered hat tricks, while Seth Kreise scored twice and Hunter Johnson added the other for Osoyoos.
Cory Loring, Sam Jones, and Bailey Tamminga’s first KIJHL goal accounted for all of Summerland’s scoring in the game.
The Steam will go back to work Friday, going head to head with the Chase Heat at the Summerland Arena. They’ll be looking to put the loss last Sunday in the rear view mirror, and get to work chasing the Coyotes for first place in the division. They now trail by four points, which can be made up pretty easily if they win their remaining two meetings with the Coyotes, both in Summerland on January 26th and February 12th.