Steam Earn Split, Home Ice Advantage in First Two Against Chiefs

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.

Steam Look to Embrace Underdog Role in Series With Red-Hot Chiefs

📸 Steve Dunsmoor – Dunsmoor Creative / Kelowna Chiefs

It’s time.

Time for teams to hit the giant red reset button and get down to what really matters. The playoffs.

For those not familiar, you’re in for a ride. KIJHL Playoffs are the most terrifying, gruelling, humbling games that are played on our calendar. Teams are required to complete up to 7 of the fastest, most physical games of the year in 9 nights. And the teams that go on could have to do that up to 4 times. At max, it’s 28 games in 36 days, and at absolute minimum it’s 16 in the same span. Both are a lot, but both are a lot of fun, and that’s what we’re in for in the coming months.

If the playoffs started in December, the feeling around the first round playoff series between the Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs would be a lot different than it is right now. The Chiefs were sputtering, struggling to keep the puck out of their net and playing in tight games that they probably deserved better results in.

Summerland, meanwhile,was thriving and leading the Okanagan Division thanks to both strong play and strength of schedule. The latter was looked at as something those around the organization had a feeling would catch up to them later on in the season, and it did in the way of a poor January that saw Summerland lose 7 of 8.

Since January 1st the script has been flipped for these two bitter rivals, who will do battle in the first round of the KIJHL Playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons. The Chiefs found stability in goal from 20-year old Joe McLeod, and began to fill the net using their speed, and their power play to create chances for themselves.

They’ve got offensive talent abound, led by 20-year old captain Brett Witala and 18-year old Brody Dale. Witala, who led the conference in points by nearly 30, came up just a couple of points shy of Creston’s Liam Plunkett in the KIJHL scoring race, while Dale’s collected a cool 39 points in 14 games since his return after the Christmas break from the NOJHL.

Combine the two with Zach Erhardt, Juanre Naude, Devon Sutton and Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise, who all average at least a point per game, and it gives you undoubtedly the most talented ‘Top 6’ in the KIJHL.

They’ve used this ‘Top 6’, along with 20-year old defenseman Cole Williams, who also averages a point per game, to form a somewhat balanced attack that relies on beating teams in transition and using their speed to create scoring chances and penalties.

They’ve done remarkably well with this model since they acquired the talent that’s gotten them where they are starting in early December. They had Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise return, added Zach Erhardt from the AJHL, and had Dale return from Junior A to bolster a lineup that already included Sutton, Naude, and Brett Witala.

Since the arrival of their full compliment on January 1st, the Chiefs have outscored their opponents by a wild 90-47 margin while going 12-2-0-1 during that span. Their only regulation losses included a pair of 6-3 defeats, one to the Osoyoos Coyotes and one to the 100 Mile House Wranglers.

Summerland, meanwhile, has now found trouble keeping the puck out of their net, particularly against their two most heated rivals, the Chiefs and the Osoyoos Coyotes. They struggled out of the gate after the break, winning just four of their first 11 post-Christmas games, including a string of 7 losses in 8 tries that allowed the Chiefs to climb back into the race for second place. Three bad losses to the Chiefs, 11-4, 9-0, and 9-4 are the reason the Chiefs will have home ice advantage, and be favoured, in this series.

The Steam seemed to take a big step forward last weekend in their final regular season game, as they went to the Revelstoke Forum and spanked the conference winning Grizzlies by a 6-2 score. It was a game that showed what Summerland was made of. They were fast, they were physical, and they bordered on just that little bit of mean that will get them somewhere in a series that will require it.

In the season series against the Chiefs Summerland went 3-3-0-2. Those three wins came early, in the first three meetings of the year, which were followed by two overtime losses in a row and three blowouts in a row to finish off the season series.

Part of it will be stepping up and changing their game to combat Kelowna’s strengths, which is of course their speed through the middle of the ice. Another key for the Steam will be to keep the Kelowna power play, which seems like it’s operating at about 70% efficiency since Christmas, off the ice.

Finally, the Steam will need their veterans to step up. Matt Huber will have to be strong in goal, Sam Jones and Brogan Lautard will have to lead by example for a young defense core that’s been better than expected all season long, and forwards Scott Robinson and Blake Holowaty will have to use their good hockey sense and strong offensive ability to help direct traffic and shots to the front of the net of Kelowna’s Joe McLeod. That’s the only way to beat a goaltender who’s gone 11-1 since his arrival in early January, and Summerland will have to figure that out quickly if they want a chance to be in this series.

If the team that showed up on home ice Friday against these same Kelowna Chiefs shows up, Summerland’s in trouble. If the team that showed up Saturday in Revelstoke makes an appearance though, we could be in for one hell of a hockey series. For the fourth year in a row, it’s the Steam and the Chiefs in Round 1 of the KIJHL Playoffs, and Summerland hopes for the fourth year in a row the series results in a Steam victory and a meeting with either the Osoyoos Coyotes or the Princeton Posse in Round 2.

Games 1&2 go Friday and Saturday from Rutland Arena, starting at 7PM.

Games 3&4 will be played Monday and Tuesday at the Summerland Arena, both 7:30pm start times. Joel and I will have pre-game for both of those contests starting at 7:15pm on Playfullscreen.com

Steam, Chiefs Battle for Home Ice in Playoff Preview

With two games remaining each, the Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs have yet to decide who will have home ice advantage in their first round playoff series. After each team won two of three games last weekend, Summerland remains one point clear of the rival Chiefs as the final weekend of KIJHL Regular Season play kicks off Friday.

The two will have a chance to control their own destiny, as they face off one last time in the regular season on Friday night at 7:30pm at the Summerland Arena. The Steam are able to clinch 2nd place and home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a regulation victory, and will surely be looking to avenge the two nasty losses (11-4 and 9-0) to the Chiefs in Rutland a couple of weeks ago.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, can take possession of 2nd place and control their own destiny with a win in Summerland Friday. Both teams play their final regular season game Saturday with Summerland visiting the best team in the conference, the Revelstoke Grizzlies, and the Chiefs playing host to the Okanagan Division’s 4th place Princeton Posse.

Summerland has been able to get back to playing their game as of late, picking up victories over the Osoyoos Coyotes (5-4 OTW) and 100 Mile House Wranglers (7-4) in a tough back to back last weekend. They were unable to complete the weekend sweep on Monday afternoon, falling to the Princeton Posse by a 3-2 score thanks to Mort Johnston’s goal with 1:05 remaining in regulation time.

The loss was a big one, as a victory would have put them three points clear of the Chiefs with just two games remaining. Instead, they’ll battle those Chiefs head-to-head to see who will gain home ice advantage in the Okanagan Division Semi-Final, which starts February 23rd.

More important than the result on Monday was the fact that the team that got shell-shocked in Rutland twice the week previous was nowhere to be found. The Steam were using their speed to create offensive chances both off the rush and on the forecheck, and were (for the most part) tight and controlled in the defensive zone. None of those things were happening during the stretch where they lost six straight and seven of eight during a miserable January, so it’s good to see they’re getting the bugs worked out at the right time.

As for the Kelowna Chiefs, they’ve been on a torrid pace since Christmas, putting up goals in bunches on route to an 11-2-0-1 record in 14 contests. The arrival of goaltenders Joe McLeod, 20, and Reign Turley, 19, during the Christmas break solidified what had quickly turned into a position of weakness for the Chiefs, and off they went.

McLeod, a Kelowna resident, had started the season with the Drayton Valley Thunder of the AJHL before returning home to await a trade that never materialized. Instead, the former Castlegar Rebel found a home with the Chiefs, and promptly went 9-0 in his first nine starts. Turley, meanwhile, was playing Men’s Senior AA hockey near his home in Quesnel, BC, and landed with the Chiefs for the remainder of 2017/18.

Their newly solidified goaltending tandem, added to the return of forward Brody Dale and the acquisition of former Summerland Steam defenseman Matt Alcorn from the Campbell River Storm, filled a couple of holes in the Chiefs lineup and turned them into a contender.

The Chiefs were potent before with the likes of Brett Witala, Juanre Naude, and Devin Suttion in their employ, but got significantly stronger with the addition (again) of Dale in particular. He’s put up a low-key (insert eye-roll) 11 goals and 33 points in the 12 games since his return, and slots in on a line with Juanre Naude that does a lot of damage when the top line of Brett Witala, Zach Erhardt, and Devin Sutton are not on the ice.

Witala, who for my money is the best one-on-one player in the KIJHL, recently had a 19 game point streak snapped in 100 Mile House last Sunday afternoon. In those 19 games, Witala notched 15 goals, including six two-goal outings, and 53 points to send him into the Top-5 in KIJHL scoring with 82 points in just 35 games.

With all this offense coming fast and furious, mixed with their newfound goaltending stability, the Chiefs picked up 17 of 18 possible points in their first nine games post-Christmas. They’ve also scored at an alarming rate and convert on the power play more often than not, so it’s important to keep them in check.

These are the reasons they were able to close a sizeable gap on the Summerland Steam, mixed of course with Summerland’s streak of bad results, and force a 2nd place showdown tonight at the Summerland Arena.

The Steam will look to continue to build on their last three games. They’ve been much better at getting pucks and bodies to the front of the goal, and that’s what’s needed to beat a good hockey team and a great goaltender like Joe McLeod.

📸 Steve Dunsmoor, Dunsmoor Creative /Kelowna Chiefs

Summerland’s veterans, 20-year olds Scott Robinson, Blake Holowaty, Sam Jones, Brogan Lautard, and Matt Huber have done well to lead their team out of whatever funk they were in during the month of January, and will need to be on their toes again tonight to lead a young team to victory over an extremely potent Kelowna Chiefs squad.

It is unclear as of yet whether Summerland will get Everett Scherger, Ryan Allen, or Niall Lawrie back prior to the first game of the KIJHL Playoffs.

Puck drop tonight goes at 7:30pm. Joel and I will be on-air starting at 7:15pm with full pre-game on playfullscreen.com.

Steam Lock Up With Coyotes, Looking to Get Back on Track

📸 : Victoria Rich Photography

Pardon the pun in the post title, but there’s no other way to put it. The Summerland Steam and the Osoyoos Coyotes will do battle on Friday night at the Summerland Arena, and Summerland will be looking to find a way out of the stretch of bad luck against good teams that they’re in. They’ve managed just one win since January 10th, which is unheard of for a franchise who’s lost more than three games in a row on just two occasions in their seven year history.

They’ve been stricken with the injury bug, no doubt, but they’re a better hockey team than the results have shown recently. They haven’t been playing their best hockey, but they’ve been playing good enough hockey to not get beat by scores of 9-3, 11-4 and 9-0 during this stretch where they’ve won just four of their last 11 games (4-5-0-2).

It’s been a story of hot goaltenders and bad luck for the Summerland Steam during this stretch, mixed with their struggles on the power play and getting bodies in front of opposing goaltenders to cause problems. They’ll be looking to get these types of things sorted out, and pointed in the right direction with five games remaining before the playoffs begin on February 23.

That starts tonight, and they better be ready to play, as the Okanagan Division Champion Osoyoos Coyotes pay their fourth and final visit to the Summerland Arena. Summerland hasn’t faired well against the Coyotes this season, winning just one of the previous seven meetings against their rivals from the south. The official line will read 1-4-0-2 in the season series, but it still boils down to six losses in seven tries, which is a big reason the Coyotes ran away with the Okanagan Division for the fourth season in a row.

The Coyotes are healthy, as they always seem to be, and are led by a veteran core group of players including Colin Bell, Carter Shannon, Carter Robinson, Hunter Johnson, and the recently returned Judd Repole. Repole, a 5th year Coyote, missed all of January with injury, and has just recently returned to the Coyotes lineup. He notched 2 assists in his return last Saturday night against the Kelowna Chiefs, a 6-3 Coyotes victory.

Once thought to be the powerhouses of the Okanagan Division, the Coyotes and the Steam have been joined by the upstart Kelowna Chiefs, who’ve gained points in all but that game since the Holiday Break in December. They’re playing their best hockey at the right time of year, and they’ve proven they belong in the conversation when talking about the best teams in the division and the KIJHL as a whole.

That stretch of strong play for the Chiefs has included two rather large victories over the Steam just last week, and closed the gap to make 2nd place and home ice advantage a dogfight with 5 games to go. An 11-4 thrashing last Friday, and a 9-0 drubbing this past Tuesday night, both in Rutland, saw the Chiefs big names feast on an unlucky, and frustrated, Summerland Steam hockey club.

Brody Dale notched 12 points in the two contests, giving him 43 on the season in just 16 games. Brett Witala, who’s been on a hot streak for the ages, extended his point streak to 18 games on Tuesday night with four points, giving him 52 (!!!!!) during that span and 81 on the season. He’s got 15 goals in those 18 games, including six 2-goal games to send him to the top 3 for points (and points per game) in the KIJHL. Witala has vaulted into a battle with Creston Valley Thunder Cats forwards Liam Plunkett and Ronnie Wilkie for the league lead in points, and Witala’s done it in ten less games.

The two teams are locked into the 2/3 matchup in the Okanagan Division Playoffs, which start February 23rd. It remains to be seen who will have home ice, but the two organizations have come together to offer fans on both sides of the series a great deal on tickets.

Playoff Ticket Package

Being that dates are currently unknown, the Steam and the Chiefs have come together to offer four games, two in each arena, for $30. It gives die hard fans of both teams a reason to travel and watch the first four games of what’s sure to be an entertaining first round playoff series for the fourth straight season. Summerland has won the previous three, but it took six, seven, and seven games, respectively, to get it done.

As for the regular season, which there is still five games left in, Summerland will be looking to shake off the most recent loss on Friday night with the Coyotes in town. The Steam will be looking to start to get back to some of the things that had them so successful early in the year. That was leaning on their veteran defensive core, making clean exits at their blue line, and using their speed on the rush to create opportunities in the offensive zone.

The Steam will lack a little grit tonight, with Liam McLaren and Sammy Gabriel both sitting suspensions for fighting related offenses. Gabriel was banned three games, alongside Kelowna’s Hayden Courtenay for what was classified as a “staged fight” last Friday night.

McLaren, meanwhile, will sit a mandatory one-game suspension for being the second fight on the same stoppage in play on Tuesday night after an altercation with 20-year old Kelowna defender Rhys Colpron.

Add those two absences to the ones already incurred by injury, including Everett Scherger, Ryan Allen and Niall Lawrie, and things get a little thin for Summerland in the numbers department. They could also be without Bailey Tamminga, who at last check was still being evaluated after a nasty instance of unsportsmanlike conduct from Kelowna’s Zach Erhardt on Tuesday night.

After coming together on the end wall and both ending up on the ice, Erhardt was the first to get up. Instead of getting back into the play, Erhardt grabbed Tamminga around the neck and threw him over, the former using his hip as a leverage point.

Tamminga’s legs were stuck under Erhardt at the time, causing the legs to stay put while the rest of Tamminga’s body was thrown over Erhard’t back. Tamminga was in visible pain and had to be helped off the ice by teammates and Steam athletic trainers Josh Dacosta and Josh Jenkinson. There is no word on whether he will be available to Head Coach John Depourcq tonight or not.

If all of these bodies remain sidelined, the Steam will either have to play a short bench or use affiliate players against the Coyotes. This means we could see the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s Kaden Moravek or Bevis Chou again, or Ty Banser, Zackery Cooper or Tristan Hewitt from the South Zone Midget T1 Knights when the Steam take the ice tonight.

Puck drop will go at 7:30 PM on the first of three games for Summerland this weekend. They’ll play at home tonight against Osoyoos, they’ll travel to 100 Mile House tomorrow night for a 7pm start, and then return home for a Monday Matinee on Family Day with the Princeton posse at 2PM.

FAMILY DAY 2018

There’s lots happening, so come down and check it out! Family packs are just $20!

Rogers Nets Winner, Huber Shines as Steam Bump the Slump

File photo: Victoria Rich Photography

Finally, the slump is busted.

On Saturday night, the Summerland Steam were able to put an end to their longest losing streak since October of 2013 with a 5-3 win over the North Okanagan Knights. The streak ends at 6 games, and pulls Summerland back into 2nd place in the division with the combination of a Kelowna Chiefs loss in Osoyoos. It was Summerland’s first victory since a road win in Princeton on January 10th, and it was badly needed.

The Chiefs had taken over sole possession of 2nd place for the first time this season with a big 11-4 victory over Summerland on Friday night in Rutland.

After having absolutely zero ‘puck luck’ and running into hot goaltenders for 4 straight games, the Steam went into Kelowna and found much of the same. The Chiefs were bouncing pucks in off bodies, and when they weren’t doing that it was hitting players and falling onto open sticks resulting in Chiefs goals.

The home team scored 11, 4 of them on the power play, and five of them off bad bounces and bad luck. It was just one of those nights for the Summerland Steam, who got goals from Luke Jirousek (13), Scott Robinson (19), Cairo Rogers (9) and Wyatt Kelly (2).

They were unlucky to be down 3-1 after a first period that saw them own possession time and an edge in shots. The bad luck continued in the second, and then frustration set in during a third period that saw the Chiefs score five times, four on power plays.

Saturday night was much different. The Steam headed for Armstrong and a meeting with the North Okanagan Knights, looking to overcome the bad luck that had sent them into a six game spiral.

They got into some trouble early, having to kill an early 5-on-3, but were able to weather the storm and get through it. It was thanks to their 20-year olds that they were able to persevere and get through the bad luck to bust the slump and start to get things back on track.

Matt Huber made 34 saves on 37 shots to pick up the victory, Blake Holowaty and Scott Robinson chipped in a goal and an assist each, while Same Jones and Brogan Lautard each collected an assist while playing big minutes.

The Steam did give up the first goal of the game, however, with 9:56 remaining in the first frame as Evan Loura scored his 9th of the year. Loura was the benefactor of a bad bounce, such is life lately for the Steam, and was able to locate an errant shot off the end boards at the left post to give the Knights the lead.

Holowaty would score his 20th with just over six minutes remaining in the first, on a wicked wrister from the high slot, to tie the game at 1 after a period.

Robinson would give the Steam the lead early in the second frame, his 20th of the season, from a nearly identical spot in the offensive zone. He was able to get there thanks to good work from Brogan Lautard and Morey Babakaiff inside the offensive zone, before Robinson was able to circle into the middle and fire a shot high to the glove side of Knights’ starter Chase Landa.

Ethan Grover, having seen the magic spot, made it 3-1 for Summerland from the exact same place, between the circles at the ringette line. His 7th put his team up by 2 late in the second frame, but the lead would last just :53. Evan Loura would bang home his second of the night and 10th of the year to cut the Steam lead to just a goal headed to the third frame.

The Knights, hungry for points as they try to catch the Princeton Posse for the fourth and final Okanagan Division Playoff berth, pushed in the third to the tune of a 15-5 shot advantage. They were able to score their lone goal of the third period and tie the game with 14:57 to play thanks to team captain Levi Harris. Harris, from Oliver, BC, notched just his third goal of the season, and his first in 28 games, to pull the Knights even.

Matt Huber was sensational in the Steam net in the third period, and was helped by his defenders to keep the game tied at 3 until the 6:11 mark of the third period.

That was when Cairo Rogers was able to convert a feed from Liam McLaren to give Summerland a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Hard work down low in the zone from McLaren and Scott Robinson freed the puck, and McLaren found Rogers camped in front of the goal for his 10th of the season and second in as many nights.

The Knights would continue to press to try to tie the game once more, and were even given a power play with almost 1:30 remaining, but Cody Swan would walk his 19th of the season into the empty net to round out the scoring and seal the deal for the Summerland Steam.

The win gets them back on track, pardon the pun, as it snaps their 6-game losing streak and jumps them back to 2nd place in the Okanagan Division. They trail the division leading Osoyoos Coyotes by 10 points in the standings with a game in hand, while being on top of the Chiefs by a single point with a game in hand there, as well. The Steam will play Osoyoos once and Kelowna twice more in their final six games.

It’s almost a dead certainty that the Kelowna Chiefs will await them in the first round of the KIJHL Playoffs. What remains to be seen is who will have the home ice advantage when those playoffs start on February 23rd.

The Steam will play four games in a seven day stretch, with some less than ideal travel included this week. They’ll start their week in Kelowna to face the Chiefs tonight at 7pm, before hosting the Coyotes Friday at 730pm, travelling to 100 Mile House on Saturday night, and returning home for a 2pm start on Monday afternoon against the Princeton Posse.

By the end of this week, the playoff picture should be more than clear headed into the final weekend of KIJHL league play on February 16-18.