STEAM SWEEP MURDOCH TRIP, PREP FOR POSSE TUESDAY NIGHT

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“No Rest for the Wicked,” or so they say. After taking all 4 points out of Spokane and Beaver Valley this past weekend, the Steam prepare to host the Princeton Posse on Tuesday night in one of only two home games this month. The other, a 4-2 loss to the Kelowna Chiefs on October 5, 2018, feels like a distant memory as the team has been on the road for the past two and a half weeks. In those five away games, they’ve scored 22 times and picked up nine of a possible ten points against North Okanagan, Osoyoos, Kamloops, Spokane, and Beaver Valley.

This past weekend, Cory Loring was the star of the show for the Steam netting three goals, one of which was a game winner, in two victories in the West Kootenays. His three points vaults him into the Top 10 in KIJHL scoring as the season reaches passes it’s quarter mark.

He scored twice (5,6) on Friday night as the Steam won a western style shootout with the Spokane Braves. The Steam opened the scoring and led 1-0, but then trailed 2-1, 3-2, and 4-3 before Loring scored his second of the night to give them their lead back early in the third period. They would hang on to win by a 5-4 final score, despite a hat trick from Spokane’s Aaron Morris.

Linden (9) and Mitch Gove (5) each contributed a goal and an assist, while Morey Babakaiff (3) also chipped in a single in the winning effort. Jared Breitkreuz made 30 stops in the victory for his 4th victory of the year.

On Saturday night, Eric Scherger was steady when called upon in a 3-2 Steam victory in Beaver Valley for his fourth victory of the year as well. The perennially strong Nitehawks are in the same situation as a lot of teams this season. They’re younger and more inexperienced than ever, and Summerland was able to pick up a victory by ambushing them early and getting out to a 2-0 first period lead.

Loring notched his 7th of the season on the power play from the left circle just under 5:00 into the hockey game before Tyson Conroy added his 4th of the season near the halfway mark to give the Steam the 2-0 lead after a period. Both goals came on long shots through traffic, and the Steam would have success with it again in the second period to lengthen the lead to 3-0.

The long shot on the power play came from Bevis Chou and was stopped by Nitehawks goaltender Jacob Romanowski, but Liam McLaren was there to pot the rebound for his 6th of the season. Mitch Gove added the second assist on the goal as Summerland took a stranglehold on the game just 5:00 into the second frame. Ryan Crisalli would score on a breakaway late in the second period, and Paul Leroux would add a goal late in the third to get the Nitehawks back within one, but that was as close as they would get.

Despite the comeback attempt, the Steam were able to hang on for a 3-2 victory and come home with all four points from their weekend trip. They’re 4-1-1-0 in October, and seem to be starting to turn in a consistent effort on a nightly basis. If you ask Head Coach John Depourcq, the road trips and time away help.

“It’s huge,” He said upon returning home from this past weekend’s trip, “It’s great to see these guys come together not only on the ice but off it. These road trips have been missed the last two years with no crossover games being played, so it’s great to get back out there and bond as a team. The on-ice effort is improving on a nightly basis and they’re being rewarded for it right now which is great to see.”

“4 points is nice, too,” He added with a smile.

Special teams was a big catalyst for the Steam this past weekend, going 3-for-10 on their power play, while successfully killing off all seven shorthanded attempts against as well. This is an area that Summerland’s struggled with so far this season on both sides, so it’s great to see they’ve begun to turn it around. They currently sit 12th in the KIJHL in both Powerplay percentage (15.60%) and Penalty Kill percentage (81.52%) but have seen those numbers improve during this stretch of October games on the road.

The trend of consistent and improved play will have continue for the team this week, as they’ll have a quick turnaround to a home game on Tuesday night. They’ll face a stiff test, as the Princeton Posse arrive for their first of three visits to the Summerland Arena this season. The Steam and the Posse have seen each other twice already, a 4-0 Summerland win on September 8th and a 7-4 Posse victory on September 29th, both in Princeton.

The Posse are currently the third place in the Okanagan Division, holding a 7-5 record through 12 games of action. Summerland sits ahead of them by three points, having played three more games at 8-6-1-0. The division is led by the league leading Kelowna Chiefs, who stretched their record to 14-0-0-1 through 15 games with a victory over the North Okanagan Knights last Saturday night.

The Posse possess a lot of things that Summerland will need to be mindful of, including power forward and team captain Lane French and defender Noah Brusse, who will jump in on offense at every opportunity. This opens them up to giving up odd-man rushes, but their goaltending has been able to hold them together all season long with the tandem of Jayson MacLean and Dominic Bosa. Summerland has seen the right hander, Bosa, in both games they’ve played against the Posse this season.

The Posse have a ‘score by committee’ attitude, but rely a lot on 2001 born local forward Austin O’Neill. The 17-year old forward is in his second season with the Posse, playing 33 games last season and scoring just six points (1G, 5A). This season’s been a coming out party for him so far, as he’s established himself as Princeton’s most dynamic forward and top scorer, netting six goals and fourteen points already in just 11 games.

Terrence Josephson and newcomer Achille Casali have been bright spots on offense as well for Mark MacNaughton’s Posse, contributing at a near point per game pace. Casali is a known trigger man, scoring seven goals in his first seven games as a member of the Similkameen based Posse.

“We’ve seen them a couple of times already this season and we know what they’re about,” Says Steam Head Coach John Depourcq, “Playing games in the barn in Princeton is a little different than playing anywhere else, so it’ll be nice to get a look at them in our barn and see if they come at us any differently. They’re a good hockey team, a deep team that works hard every shift so we’ll have to make sure we’re prepared to match them shift for shift.”

Puck drop is 7:30pm on Tuesday night at the Summerland Arena, and the Summerland Steam will debut a Special Edition jersey for the remainder of October and all of November’s home games. The jersey, presented by the ONNI Group, has a pink twist to Summerland’s traditional home jersey, and will be auctioned off in support of the Canadian Cancer Society to help raise funds for cancer research.

Pre-Game for Tuesday night’s tilt will go at 7:15 ahead of a 7:30 puck drop with myself and Joel Barg on playfullscreen.com.

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