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.