STEAM EARN ANOTHER SPLIT, ATTEMPT TO FIND FOOTING IN OKANAGAN DIVISION

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Photo: Chris Swan

October 2nd, 2018

Summerland, BC

For the fourth weekend in a row to start the 2018/19 KIJHL season, the Summerland Steam earned a split this past weekend in games against the Osoyoos Coyotes and the Princeton Posse. The Steam faced the Coyotes at home on Friday night, pouring it on in a 6-0 victory that saw the two young teams combine for 85 penalty minutes, 21 power play opportunities and a whole lot of animosity.

For how much ‘new blood’ is involved in the Steam-Coyotes rivalry in 2018/19, a lot of people around the two teams thought we might get a bit of a quiet start in the first game of a six game set in 2018/19. It was the exact opposite effect, in fact, that saw Summerland go 2-for-12 on the power play on route to their victory.

They struck first on the penalty kill, as Linden Gove was able to notch his fourth goal of the season on a shorthanded 2-on-1 break with Cody Swan. Swan did the legwork, snatching the puck from a Coyotes defender and breaking into offensive territory. He found Gove moving to the far post, who was able to cut back with the puck and beat Osoyoos goaltender Daniel Paul to open the scoring for the Steam.

It would be the only goal of the first half, with Summerland then adding three in the back half of the second period to break the game wide open. They outshot the Coyotes 16-4 in the middle frame, and really took control of the hockey game. The second period scoring started courtesy of a power play goal from Cody Swan at 8:53, his second goal of the season, after a pass from Ty Banser found Cory Loring in the slot. Loring fired a shot that hit Daniel Paul before Swan was able to locate a rebound and deposit it to make the lead 2-0.

The Steam would then score twice in :55 seconds. The first, courtesy of Tyson Conroy’s second of the season, was a long point shot that found it’s way through traffic. Originally thought to have hit Steam captain Everett Scherger on the way to the goal, it was credited to Conroy on the power play with 1:46 remaining in the period to extend the Steam lead to 3-0. The goal came mere seconds after Daniel Paul made a ‘save of the year’ candidate at the right post.

Just :55 seconds later, Liam McLaren would chime in with his first of two on the night, and the season, with a gorgeous shot off the rush. McLaren was able to find a loose puck off an errant Coyotes shot and find some space down the left wing side. McLaren was allowed to walk over the Coyotes’ blue line, and beat the goaltender Paul with a laser to the glove side to close out second period scoring and send Summerland to the dressing room with a 4-0 lead.

Tristan Hewitt would then find himself in the right place at the right time to collect his first KIJHL goal just a couple of minutes into period number three. Hewitt was the beneficiary of a misplay from Coyotes goaltender Daniel Paul, who fanned on a pass and let the puck run straight to Hewitt who knocked it in to extend the lead to 5-0.

McLaren would add his second of the night and round out the scoring just :10 seconds later off the ensuing face-off. Summerland found themselves with the puck off the draw, and they dumped the puck in deep. Tristan Hewitt went after it, and found McLaren in the slot who had time to settle and shoot, beating Daniel Paul to close out the scoring and button up a 6-0 Summerland victory.

In all of this, Jared Breitkreuz had a quiet night in the Summerland goal, needing to stop just 20 Coyotes shots for the shutout. He faced but a handful of what would be considered ‘dangerous’ opportunities for the Coyotes, and kept the zero on the board throughout.

The same couldn’t be said the following night in Princeton, where the Steam traveled to take on the Posse for the second time this season. The Posse stormed out to a 3-0 lead early, with Tyler Stinchcombe connecting on the power play just 1:11 into the hockey game. Lane French and Terrence Josephson would also add first period goals, and the Summerland Steam found themselves in a serious hole to start period number two.

Stinchcombe would add his second of the night, another power play goal, to make it 4-0 early in the second, before Summerland would begin to crawl back into the hockey game. Morey Babakaiff would chime in with his first goal of the season, assisted by Brett & Sean Wilson to cut the lead back to 3. The Wilson twins found themselves on a 2-on-1 but couldn’t convert, instead finding Babakaiff off the bench who made no mistake to make it 4-1.

Tyson Conroy would then add a power play goal at 7:09 to cut the lead to 4-2, his third of the season, putting a shot on goal that beat Posse goaltender Dominic Bosa low to the glove side. This gave Summerland some life, and they controlled the majority of the remainder of the second period without adding another goal.

They were able to continue to cut the defecit in the third period, as the same work ethic appeared at the start of the third as they carried for most of the second period. Linden Gove would make it a one goal game with 15:04 remaining, his fifth of the season, with a wicked wrister from the slot that beat Dominic Bosa high to make it 4-3.

Liam McLaren would score his third goal in two games, and third of the season to complete the comeback with just over 7:00 remaining. McLaren was able to tip a point shot and change it’s direction, beating a surprised Bosa to tie the game at 4 apiece.

Unfortunately, after completing their comeback the Steam would see their discipline come back to bite them once again. After scoring four unanswered goals and erasing what was an absolutely dreadful start, the Steam took a penalty with 6:25 to play that would be the beginning of the end for them.

Terrence Josephson would score his second of the night for the Princeton Posse with 5:29 to play that would stand as the game winning goal. Achille Casali would add insurance with 4:11 remaining, and Austin O’Neill would dump one into an empty net to seal the win for the Posse by a 7-4 score.

Bosa took the victory for the Posse making 35 saves, while Eric Scherger took the loss for the Steam stopping 32 Posse shots in the process.

WHAT’S NEXT?

With the split on the weekend, Summerland’s record falls to 4-5 in nine games. They, along with three other divisional teams (Kelowna, the exception) are trying to figure out what they’ve got and what kind of team they’re going to be moving forward as the season nears the quarter mark. All of Summerland, Princeton, North Okanagan and Osoyoos are very young, very inexperienced hockey teams with a lot of learning and growing potential in their systems, and it will be fun to watch these four teams develop as the season goes along. Very few impact players returned to these four squads over the course of the off-season, with some moving on to university ranks, others into Junior A across the country, and some moving on to life after hockey.

The Steam, coming off divisional games last weekend with Osoyoos and Princeton, will now get to work to prepare for the Kelowna Chiefs coming to town on Friday night (7:30pm start). The Chiefs remain the only exception to the “young and inexperienced” narrative in the Okanagan Division, and should run away with the division and possibly the conference because of the level of impact players returned from last year’s team.

These include Brody Dale, Devin Sutton, Lane Paddison, Zach Erhardt, Juanre Naude, and Isaac Dutka, to name a few. All have the skill to be playing Junior A (at least in my opinion), and make the Chiefs far and away the most dangerous team in the Okanagan Division. If you add some of their impressive rookies (Ryan Stack, Jordan Woytas, et all), they’re likely the deepest team in the KIJHL with their captain, Tyler Love, playing on the “third” or “fourth” line. The only team that rivals their skill level in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference, or at least has shown it thus far, is the Revelstoke Grizzlies.

The Nelson Leafs and Kimberley Dynamiters in the Kootenay Conference also pose a threat to Kelowna’s bid for a league title, but in my opinion it should be theirs to lose. They’ve put together a long list of talented returnees, as well as done very well to get the winningest Coach in recent Okanagan Division history in Ken Law. Their Hockey Ops department (Law, GM Grant Sheridan, and Director of Hockey Operations, Jason Tansem) have also made some excellent recruitment choices in the players they’ve brought in to compliment that returning talent core, and it’s showing in their early season results.

They’re 8-0-0-1 through their first nine games, and boast the reigining Okanagan Shuswap Conference Player of the Month in Brody Dale, as well as one of the best goaltenders in the conference in rookie Braeden Mitchell. Mitchell has started his season by posting a 5-0-0-1 record with a .936% Save percentage and 1.85 Goals Against Average. Those numbers are pretty solid, and it will take some big work to beat the big Chiefs goaltender.

If Summerland is going to be successful this weekend, it’s going to come down to their discipline. In their only encounter with the Chiefs thus far, Summerland allowed Kelowna to score five times on seven power play opportunities on the way to a 7-2 loss. It’s something that can’t happen again if they want to be successful Friday night.

Summerland IGA is the Game Sponsor for the October 5th affair, offering giveaways as well as their famous ‘Paper Plate Toss’ to win items placed all over the ice including hams, turkeys, and all the fixings for your Thanksgiving feasts!

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