They did what they had to do.
Being the lower seed for the first time since 2012/13, the Summerland Steam knew if they were going to win this series against the explosive Kelowna Chiefs, they were going to have to win at least a game at Rutland Arena. Both coaches lamented before this series that home ice advantage didn’t much matter between these two teams, but it could be a big bonus for Summerland to get the thing they HAD to do out of the way early.
They didn’t wait long, as Scott Robinson netted a pair of goals in Game 1 to lead his team to a 5-4 victory and a 1-0 series lead. Blake Holowaty, Morey Babakaiff, and Liam McLaren each scored in the contest as well, while Matt Huber made 27 saves to pick up the victory.
Robinson’s second of the game would stand as the winner, as he was sprung on a breakaway and made no mistake with 3:29 to play in the third period. The goal put the Steam up 5-3 late, and the Chiefs were only able to come halfway back.
Brody Dale scored twice for the Chiefs in Game 1, while Zach Erhardt and Devin Sutton each tallied a goal.
The same culprits would be at it for the Chiefs in Game 2, and this time they came out on the right side of a 5-4 score. Sutton scored a power play goal with a shade over five minutes remaining that would stand as the winner, while Dale, Erhardt, Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise and Rhys Colpron also scored for the home side.
Luke Jirousek tallied a pair of power play goals for the Steam, while Sam Jones (also on the power play) and Noah Kallichuk each added singles in a losing effort.
Would Summerland have loved to win Game 2? You’d be silly to think they wouldn’t have, and they just about did, but they’ll be happy to come home with a split and control their own destiny. All they have to do is defend home ice, and the series can’t be lost.
The Steam did a great job in the first two games of neutralizing the Chiefs’ biggest weapon, which is their speed. Summerland was able to effectively use the boards to clear pucks, and get in on the forecheck to cause the Chiefs some problems, and that’ll have to continue if they want to get results.
One thing that will for sure need a little work on the Summerland end will be defending the Chiefs potent power play, which went 3-for-11 in the first two games of the series. While not an overwhelming percentage of the Chiefs 9 goals have come on the power play, a little more resiliency on the penalty kill for Summerland probably wins them Game 2 and has them coming home up 2-0 in the series.
The Chiefs scored twice on the power play in Game 2, both in the third period to tie the game at 4 and take the lead that would hold until the final buzzer. They also tallied one in the second period that came right at the end of a Summerland penalty kill, which could also be considered a PPG.
The Chiefs first power play unit boasts their five best players, and they’re all forwards. Brody Dale and Brett Witala man the points, while Devin Sutton, Zach Erhardt, and Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise patrol the lower portion of the zone. Option A is almost always Brody Dale at the left point, and option B is often Devin Sutton for a one-timer somewhere in the middle of the zone.
The problem with trying to defend solely those plays is that all five players are so talented, that if you leave one open to defend another there’s a good chance you’ll have to fish the puck from the back of the net anyway. The best policy for the Summerland Steam is obviously to stay out of the penalty box, but when they have to take one they just need to make the simple plays, keep their defensive structure, and be willing to buy in and block shots.
For the most part they’ve done a great job of it. They just need to be that little bit sharper, and they’ll be in this series until the bitter end. On the other side of the special teams coin the Steam have been good on the power play, collecting four goals on 17 opportunities through two games. They’ve done well to open up shooting lanes and get traffic to the slot, which has to continue if they want to beat a goaltender like Kelowna’s Joe McLeod.
Game 3 goes tonight, 7:30pm from the Summerland Arena. Joel and I will have pre-game starting at 7:15pm on PlayFullScreen.com. Game 4, same times, same place on Tuesday night.