STEAM WRAP NOVEMBER WITH SPLIT VS WRANGLERS, GRIZZLIES

📸 Tami Quan Photography

November 26, 2018

Summerland, BC

With the 100 Mile House Wranglers and the Revelstoke Grizzlies coming into town this past weekend, the Summerland Steam had to know they were going to be in tough to get all four points. In fact, it’s proven difficult to obtain 4 of a possible 4 points on most weekends this season, and this past one was no different. It looked, for a while, as if Summerland may come away with no points as they trailed the 100 Mile House Wranglers by a 3-2 score in the late stages of Friday night’s game. Linden Gove (15) and Cairo Rogers (3) had scored for Summerland, while Benjamin Keon, Kolby Page, and Nico Hemming had replied for the visiting Wranglers.

In a game where Summerland had trouble capitalizing on their opportunities, they found themselves doing all the right things but trailing by a 3-2 score as the clock wound down. With time running out, it was Summerland’s leaders who took over.

Tami Quan Photography

Tami Quan Photography

Linden Gove (16) scored his second of the night with :49 on the clock to tie the game at 3 and force overtime. In the extra frame the Steam were forced to kill a penalty to Everett Scherger, only to have him sprung out of the penalty box on a 2-on-1 with Mitch Gove.

Tami Quan Photography

The younger Gove threw on the brakes in the offensive zone and let a Wrangler defender slide on by, before feeding a pass to Scherger on the right wing. Summerland’s captain made no mistake, popping the water bottle behind Wranglers’ goaltender Miles Minor to win the game for the home team by a 4-3 score.

img_1413-1

Tami Quan Photography

“You know, they bring kind of a calm persona there with all our other players,” Depourcq said of Linden Gove and Everett Scherger in his pre-game comments on Saturday, “We’ve got some young guys here who are experiencing their first taste of junior hockey, and just the “take care of business” mentality from those two keeps everybody calm on the bench and keeps them working hard. Luckily we were able to come back last night. It was a little disappointing at the start of the game we had lots of opportunities to capitalize on the power play and we couldn’t seem to put the biscuit in the basket, or we just weren’t getting the bounces, I guess. As the game went on 100 Mile stuck to their game plan, played simple hockey and forced us to play from behind. It was nice to see the boys come back, and eventually pick up that big OT win.”

Everett Scherger on his Overtime Winner:

Video: Emanuel Sequiera

Jared Breitkreuz made 24 saves on Friday night in the victory, and earned a second consecutive start Saturday night against the Doug Birks Division leading Revelstoke Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies are the same as ever under Head Coach/GM Ryan Parent. They’re talented, but they’re also big, physical, and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty to retrieve pucks and cause problems for the opposition. They hit hard, occasionally hit high and they take no prisoners, and all three of those things were evident from the very beginning on Saturday night. This is the way the Grizzlies have played all year long and for the past three or four seasons as a whole, but it also wasn’t policed one bit on Saturday night.

We didn’t have to talk about KIJHL refereeing much for the first 20 games of the season, but it’s been getting increasingly worse, culminating on Saturday night with egregious penalties being ignored on both sides.

It looks like it might be time once again for BC Hockey’s quarterly referee refresher course, because it’s not just one who’s dropped the ball recently. For 20+ games this season, referees did their job adequately. By that I mean they called what they needed to, let go what they needed to, and for the most part kept themselves from being a talking point one way or the other, just the way it should be. For the past few games, however, that hasn’t been the case and players and fans alike are looking (and hoping) for some positive change.

There are increasing complains league wide that refereeing is a concern, and again people are beginning to wonder whether a 4-man system like the one used in the VIJHL should be considered. The only concern is the 4-man system uses MORE officials, and likely officials that BC Hockey does not have at the present time at a calibre to officiate Junior hockey correctly. It would simply water down what’s already being used, and that may in fact make things worse.

As for Saturday night’s game, the Grizzlies were the better team from the outset and at 19-2-0-0 coming in, you had to expect Summerland might be ‘up against it’ in the best of situations. Summerland did their best to stay with the Grizzlies but the bigger, more physical Grizzlies had their way with a young Steam squad.

Tami Quan Photography

Raymond Speerbrecker was the star of the night for the Grizzlies, scoring once and adding three assists. Ryan Pereverzoff opened the scoring for the Grizzlies, before Summerland scored twice in 2:13 early in the second period to take a 2-1 lead. Mitch Gove (8) beat Grizzlies goaltender Liam McGarva high to the glove side down the right wing to open the scoring, before Cory Loring (10) tipped in an Ethan Grover shot from the point to give the Steam their lead. Speerbrecker tied the game with 11:26 to play in the second period, and we went to the intermission tied at 2.

The back-breaker for the Summerland Steam came early in the third period. A 5-minute lapse allowed the Grizzlies to clamp down on some offensive zone pressure, and they scored three times in 2:08 to open up a 5-2 lead. Rider McCallum, Tommy Bodtker, and Kaeden Patrick all found the back of the net in that 2:08 span, and gave the Grizzlies a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Tami Quan Photography

Summerland was able to get one more, courtesy of a snipe from Cody Swan (10) with 8:00 on the clock, but that was as close as they would come. They would end up taking a 5-3 loss, but were in it until the bitter end despite being under siege for most of the night. They’ll likely trade the two points in exchange for getting to the final buzzer with no major injuries in a game full of long runs, high hits, and lobbying from the Revelstoke bench to ‘do it again’.

The Summerland Steam finished up a tough slog with a 5-3-0-1 record in November. Regulation losses to Kelowna, Revelstoke, Chase, and a thrilling overtime loss to the Kimberley Dynamiters were the blemishes, while they were able to beat 100 Mile House twice, Osoyoos, Sicamous, and Creston Valley.

They scored 30 goals in the month, but gave up 38 in their nine games. Their offense was average, scoring nearly 3.5 goals per game. Their defense and goaltending, however, was well below the performance put forth in previous months. In their four total losses (3 regulation, 1 overtime), the Steam gave up 27 goals, or an average of nearly 7.00 per game. In total they gave up 38, meaning in their five wins they surrendered an average just over 2.00 per game. It’s truly a “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” type of scenario, and something that with some video work and tweaking, Head Coach John Depourcq feels will correct itself quickly.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Steam as far as quality of competition is concerned, however they’ll play a couple less games in December due to the holiday season being upon us. They’ll open their December schedule on the 1st with a one-game weekend, but it’s a visit to Rutland and the Kelowna Chiefs who have yet to lose a game in regulation, and haven’t had a blemish on home ice.

The Chiefs (21-0-1-2) have the best winning percentage in the province and arguably the best “Top Six” that certainly the Okanagan Shuswap Conference, and possibly the entire KIJHL have ever seen. They back that up with good depth forwards, solid defensive talent and a top tier goaltender making them arguably the most dangerous hockey club in Canada, let alone the province of BC.

The Chiefs are coming off a hard fought 2-1 victory over the upstart Osoyoos Coyotes on Tuesday night, and like the Steam will have Friday night off before the two teams square up on Saturday night. The Osoyoos Coyotes, 7-2-0-1 in their last ten games, are currently trying to close the gap on the Steam, sitting in third place. They trail by 11 points, with 4 games in hand.

Summerland has played the most games in the league to date, with 27 of their 49 regular season games already in the books. The schedule gets a little lighter for them in the month of December, with only six games as opposed to November’s nine. They’ll play two road games, two home games, and two showcase games in the coming month, looking to solidify their position at the top of the division and gain home ice advantage in the playoffs for the sixth time in their seven year history. They’ll visit Kelowna and North Okanagan, host Chase and North Okanagan, and play their two showcase games in Kamloops against Grand Forks (away) and Fernie (Home) in December, with a solid two week break between games over the Holidays.

You can catch the first of Summerland’s December games this coming Saturday night against the Kelowna Chiefs. If you can make the trip, please do, and support Chiefs Forward Myles Mattilla and his initiative to lessen the stigma surrounding mental health. The Chiefs, in partnership with the Peacock Sheridan Group and Myles’ initiative, Mindright.info will host their second “Mental Health Awareness Night” at the Rutland Arena on Saturday when the Steam visit.

If you can’t catch the game at the rink, join Chiefs Play-By-Play man Justin McCartney for all the action on playfullscreen.com starting at 7:00pm.

STEAM NAB 3 OF 4 POINTS, LOSE SLUGFEST TO NITROS

201811032047111

File Photo: Eric Scherger

Headed into the weekend, the Summerland Steam had to know they were going to have to play their best hockey to pick up four points. With the Sicamous Eagles coming in Friday looking to bust a 5 game losing streak, and the Kimberley Dynamiters arriving Saturday looking to extend a win streak to double digits, Summerland was hoping to play spoiler in both instances. On Friday night they were able to battle their own demons early in the hockey game and somehow find their way out to a 3-0 lead after the first period. They were awful in their own zone, but were bailed out by goaltender Eric Scherger any time the Eagles got close. They floundered for nearly 15 full minutes before busting open the scoring with three goals, one each from Cody Swan (9), Morey Babakaiff (7), and Tyson Conroy (5) in a span of 3:07 to stake the home team to a 3-0 lead after a period.

From there they would cruise, allowing just one goal from Colby Sherlock of the Eagles in the second. Steam captain Everett Scherger (5) would tack on an insurance goal in the third period, completing a 4-1 victory for the home team in their first game of the weekend. The elder Scherger, Everett, had a goal and an assist in his return to the lineup after missing almost 4 weeks with an injury. The younger Scherger, Eric, made 28 saves in the victory and earned a second consecutive start on Saturday night when the Kootenay Conference leading Kimberley Dynamiters visited the Summerland Arena.

“Eric was good on Friday night, so we decided to go back with him and give him one of the biggest tests of the season on Saturday,” Said Head Coach John Depourcq, “It’s nice to have a young guy pushing for starts and net time, and it’s good to see his hard work and dedication pay off. We’re very lucky that we have two goaltenders on our team that make our decision as coaches difficult every night.”

If you missed this game, go back and watch it on the playfullscreen.com archive because it’s worth the $5 to watch it from start to finish. In the game of the year to date, the Steam and the Dynamiters went blow for blow in what turned out to be a 7-6 2OT victory and the 10th win in a row for the visitors.

The Dynamiters jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a couple of power play goals from Jackson Bohan (4) and Keegan McDowell (14), only for Summerland to come back and tie the game before the end of the first period. Morey Babakaiff (8) scored on a breakaway just :14 after the McDowell goal, and Everett Scherger (6) potted a power play goal of his own with just over three minutes remaining to send the teams to the dressing room tied at 2.

From there, the see-saw battle continued all night long. Brandt Bertoia (8) scored the Nitros lone even strength goal of the night to give the Nitros the lead early in the second, only to be answered by Zack Cooper’s sixth of the season on a Summerland power play later in the period. Braiden Koran (8) would add another power play goal for the Nitros before the end of the period to give the visitors a 4-3 lead headed to the third and final frame.

Summerland would start the third with a purpose, however, and rattle off three straight goals to take a 6-4 lead into the late stages of the game. Babakaiff would net his second of the game and ninth of the season to tie the game at four just 3:46 into the period, before Cory Loring would add his ninth at 8:46 to give the Steam the lead. 16-year old Tyson Conroy would put home his sixth of the season a short time later to extend Summerland’s lead to two with 8:50 to play in the third period.

Things looked promising for the home team, but the power play continued to roll for the Dynamiters in the closing minutes and gave them a chance to tie the game. Cam Russell scored his fourth of the season (in just 6 games) to bring the Nitros within one as the clock ticked down. Russell was able to find a lane through a maze of bodies and beat a standing Eric Scherger, who didn’t see the puck until it was by him.

In the final minute, Summerland was penalized when forward Cody Swan fell on a puck with just :18 remaining on the clock. Referee Lane Richardson deemed this as unsportsmanlike conduct, even though Swan was given a rough ride by the sticks of three Dynamiters digging away. The Nitros would capitalize on the power play, when leading scorer Brock Palmer tucked a puck behind Eric Scherger to tie the game at six with :10 on the clock. Scherger then picked the puck up out of his net, and was given a ‘Delay of Game’ penalty for turfing it over the glass.

The Steam entered OT and were able to kill that penalty, but another to Tyson Conroy late in 2OT proved costly. Brock Palmer finished the job, collecting his second goal of the night to seal the victory and the 10th win a row for the Nitros. He was able to locate a rebound off a long shot by Cam Russell, and tuck it in to secure the victory for the visitors. They moved their record to a Kootenay Conference best 19-3-0-0 in 22 games played.

“There was a lot of things to like in that hockey game,” Said Head Coach John Depourcq post-game on Saturday, “There’s also lots of things to work on out of a game like that as well. I was happy with our boys showing their resolve to continue to come back, I was happy with the way our power play got set up and executed our game plan, and I was happy with the way we played at 5-on-5. I think obviously up a pair with just over eight minutes left I think we could have grabbed more than just a point, but I was happy with the effort the boys put forth, for sure. It gives us some things to work on at practice this week too, which is a positive thing.”

When asked what it was like to watch his team continue to ‘pick themselves up off the mat’, per se, Depourcq offered this:

“It’s great to see, and it’s a great learning curve for the boys. They hung with the best team in the Kootenay Conference and one of the best in the league, and they worked hard to have a chance to win it. It gives them something to build on with big games coming up against teams like 100 Mile House, Revelstoke, and Kelowna in the next couple weeks.”

Overall, Saturday’s was one helluva hockey game. It was fast, it was physical, and it was an absolute treat to watch. The teams combined to go 10/18 . Both goaltenders, although their stat lines suffer, were quite good when their teams needed them. There isn’t a whole lot of blame to be placed on a goaltender when he gets beat with a power play goal, and that happened a lot on Saturday night. Both Eric Scherger and Kimberley’s Adam Andersen were there when called upon, and made a couple of timely saves each in key moments to keep the game from breaking open.

The Dynamiters outshot the Steam 41-23 in the game, although both teams had an equal number of high quality opportunities. It was evident from about the halfway mark on that whomever received the last power play of the game was likely going to be the victor, and that was the case 100%. You have to be happy that the crossover is back, but it also makes you wonder what might happen if these two teams got an opportunity to play one another again. Perhaps that’s an option should both make it to the KIJHL Final come March, which is the ultimate goal.

Summerland will now turn their attention to practice, and getting prepared for the 100 Mile House Wranglers to visit on Friday night. The Steam will have what’s got to be considered a ‘heavy’ weekend, with the Wranglers visiting Friday and the Doug Birks Division leading Revelstoke Grizzlies arriving for a tilt on Saturday night.

Both are skilled hockey clubs that play a heavy, physical brand of hockey, and it’s something the young Steam will have to be prepared for. The good news? If they can hang with the Kimberley Dynamiters, they can hang with anybody.

Puck drop on both games next weekend go at 7:30pm, with full pre-game taking place on playfullscreen.com starting at 7:15pm with myself and Joel Barg.

 

 

‘JEKYLL AND HYDE’ STEAM EARN WEEKEND SPLIT VERSUS COYOTES, HEAT

Photo: Tami Quan Photography

“Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” is probably not a story one wants to associate with a hockey team, but that’s exactly what was seen from the Summerland Steam in a pair of games this past weekend. After a 7-2 loss to the mighty Kelowna Chiefs on Tuesday night that looks a lot worse on paper than it really was, the Steam were looking to turn in a good effort against the rival Osoyoos Coyotes on Friday.

THE RECAP

The Steam got a pair of goals each from Linden Gove (13,14) and Ryan Allen (1,2) in the midst of a good effort to pick up a 4-1 victory. In the win, Jared Breitkreuz made 28 saves to pick up his 7th win of the season. More importantly than the stats, the Steam played a solid, 5-man game all night long. They were good on the walls, in the defensive zone, and they used their forecheck effectively to create chances for themselves. They were disciplined, measured, and took advantage of the opportunities they created for themselves on route to victory.

Saturday night, however, was not the same. They climbed on the bus headed for Chase, looking to make it another 4-point weekend against the Doug Birks Division’s 5th place Chase Heat. The Heat, looking for their fourth win of the season, blitzed the Steam in the opening minutes, and opened the scoring just :20 in. The Steam started flat, allowing three goals in the first 9:29 of the hockey game to dig themselves an early 3-0 hole to a team in search of just their fourth win of the season. Chase would add a fourth in the closing minutes of the first period to seal up what is likely the worst period of Summerland’s season to date.

The Steam would get on the board in the second, but not before the Heat pushed the lead to 5-0. Mitch Gove would notch a power play goal, his 7th goal of the season, to get the Steam on the board headed to the third period. In that frame the Steam would add two more power play goals, one highlight reel goal each from Cody Swan (8) and Morey Babakaiff (6). Unfortunately, these were mixed into three more Chase Heat goals, to bring the final score to 8-3 and allow Chase to pick up their 4th victory of the season.

It was not a banner night for the visitors. They got off to an awful start and found themselves chasing not only on the scoreboard but all over the defensive zone all night long. The eight goals against is a season high, and something that they’ll likely be trying to figure out this week in practice before a couple of big games this weekend. Luckily this type of performance has been an anomaly for the Steam lately, as they’ve gone through a 6-3-0-1-0 stretch in their past 10 games. They backed up a 5-2-1-1 month of October with a 3-2 record in the month of November to date, with their only really poor effort being this past Saturday night in Chase.

The lone bright spot to Saturday night’s loss to the Heat was the power play, which went 3-for-5 and provided all the offense for the Steam. The unit has been clicking lately, going 8-for-27 so far in the month of November and converting at a 29.63% rate. They’ll need it to click again this weekend, with a pair of games against the Sicamous Eagles and Kimberley Dynamiters up next.

THE SICAMOUS EAGLES

The Eagles (7-11-2-2) got off to a hot start this season, but have cooled off lately. They’re 4-5-0-1 in their past ten games, and have undergone a myriad of changes over the past couple of weeks. These include bringing in goaltender Koltin Dodge and defender Braeden Dey from the North Okanagan Knights, while sending forward Ty Tippett back in exchange. Tippett had 3 assists in 14 games for the Eagles prior to being dealt.

Looking at their numbers, the Eagles seem to struggle to put the puck in the net. They’ve averaged just 2.27 Goals For per game through 22 games, scoring a total of 50 goals. In that same span, they’ve given up 73 goals against, which works out to 3.32 goals against per game and a -23 goal differential. They’ve struggled with a bit of inconsistency so far in 2017/18, and it has never been more prevalent than it is right now. After their first 4 game win streak in 4 years (thanks to Eagles Play-By-Play man Scott Campbell for that stat), the Eagles have lost 5 straight games.

The team boasts a unique balance as their top two scorers, Justin Hodgson and Aaron Plessis, have contributed more than a third of the goals Sicamous has scored as a team this season. They’ve scored 10 and 7 goals, respectively, which is 34% of the total goals scored by the team through 22 games, and are both on track to smash personal bests for points in a single season. Hodgson is already there, besting his 15 point performance in 2017/18, while Plessis looks to lead the team in scoring for the second year after a 27 point performance for the 6-win Eagles in 2017/18.

They also get a little offense from their defense, and the majority of that comes from 18-year olds Nicholas Cossa and Samuel Archambeault. Both have 10 points on the season, and play big minutes for Head Coach Rob Fitzpatrick and the Eagles in all kinds of situations. They’re tough to play against, they move the puck well, and create opportunities for their team by being sound defensively and making a good first pass. Although inconsistent thus far through 2018/19, the Eagles have lots to be excited about and lots to look forward to.

One thing the Eagles have received consistently this season is quality goaltending from 18-year old Cole Steinke. Steinke, from Mayerthorpe, AB has posted a 6-2-1 record, 2.56 goals against average and a .930% save percentage in 12 appearances so far this season. With those kind of numbers one has to guess that if Steinke starts in goal there’s a chance he can steal a game for the Sicamous Eagles, and that’s been the case a few times this season. They’re the league’s most penalized team, finding themselves shorthanded 152 times, or an average of 7 times per game. They’ve also given up the most power play goals in the league with 29, but are 13th in the penalty kill percentage rankings at just over 80% thanks to the amount of time they spend shorthanded. It’s something the Steam may be able to exploit with their power play clicking so well in their last 5 games.

THE KIMBERLEY DYNAMITERS

The Kimberley Dynamiters (17-3-0-0) on the other hand, are a much different test for the Summerland Steam. The Dynamiters are the best team in the Kootenay Conference and come west this weekend to play the Princeton Posse on Friday before entering The Station on Saturday night. They have the second best power play and 10th best penalty kill in the league, and are solid from top to bottom in all facets of the game.

The visit from the Eddie Mountain Division’s best team (at the moment) comes exactly 4 years and a day since their last one, which was a 5:30pm local start on November 16, 2014. In that game, Jason Richter scored a pair of goals for the Nitros, with the Steam skating to a 6-3 victory.

The Dynamiters have been the model of consistency in the Eddie Mountain Division for years, winning the KIJHL Championship last season and seemingly contending for it for the past 5 years. The last time they didn’t contend for at the very least a conference title was the 2013/14 season when they were upended by the Creston Valley Thunder Cats in the Eddie Mountain Division Final.

For Head Coach and GM Derek Stuart, now in his fourth season at the helm of Kimberley’s junior squad, it’s evident that it’s always been about a team environment and building a balanced lineup. Not since Eric Buckley in 2015/16 have the Nitros had a player finish in the Top-10 in KIJHL scoring, and they’ve contended for a title in every season since. They rely on quality goaltending and depth from the top to the bottom of the roster. Every player seems to have his place and know his role, and the Nitros are once again on the hunt early in 2018/19.

They’ve won eight games in a row, with their last loss coming more than a calendar month ago to the Revelstoke Grizzlies on October 13th. In those eight games, they’ve outscored their opponents by a 42-9 margin, while outshooting them 338-165 (thanks to Josh Lockhart & Nitro’s Night in Kimberley for that stat). This means not only are the Dynamiters playing fast, physical hockey, but they’re putting an average of 42 shots on goal per game and allowing just 21 against. That’s a pretty easy recipe for success, and the Nitros are the epitome of it again in 2018/19.

The only blemishes on their record have come against Spokane early in September, the Kelowna Chiefs on September 29, and their most recent defeat to the Grizzlies in mid-October. If Summerland wants to stand a chance against the powerhouse that is the Kimberley Dynamiters, they’ll have to take away time and space and limit their mistakes. That’s the recipe to hanging with the Kelowna Chiefs, and will likely be the same with the runaway favourites in the East as well.

THE INFO

  • Puck drops on both games go at 7:30, with pre-game starting at 7:15pm on playfullscreen.com with Joel Barg and I. We’ll have pre-game coaches comments from Head Coach John Depourcq each night, as well as visiting coaches if possible.
  • Tickets are available at the door on game day. It’s just $10 for adults, $8 for Students & Seniors, and Family Packs (2 adults, up to 4 kids under 10) are just $25.00
  • Stay tuned for post-game recaps right here on Trolley Talk!

4 POINT PARENTS WEEKEND LEADS STEAM TO TUESDAY TILT WITH CHIEFS

After a spirited parents weekend that finished with the best possible outcome, the Summerland Steam don’t have much time to recuperate. They were able to pick up a 6-3 win Friday night against Creston Valley and a 4-3 victory over 100 Mile House Wranglers on Saturday night, only to stare straight into the faces of the 16-0-1-1 Kelowna Chiefs on Tuesday night at the Summerland Arena.

On Friday night for Summerland, their power play provided the spark they needed to take down the Thunder Cats. The Steam scored three power play goals including one late in the second from Mitch Gove (6) to tie the game at 3, and two in the third period from Morey Babakaiff (6) and Linden Gove (11) to give them a commanding lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Linden Gove (10) and Ty Banser (3) had scored earlier in the contest, while Cody Swan (6, ENG) added an empty netter for good measure to finish off a 6-3 victory in which Jared Breitkreuz made 28 saves.

Morey Babakaiff’s Game winner from Friday night’s 6-3 victory. 📸 Tami Quan

Summerland came with a strong effort again on Saturday night, picking up a 4-3 victory over a 100 Mile House Wranglers team that beat them 5-0 just one week prior. Cody Swan (7), Linden Gove (12), and Liam McLaren (7) scored for the Steam before the Wranglers were able to tie the game at 3 early in the third period. Ethan Grover (3) would provide the heroics for the Steam, scoring with 5:11 remaining in the third period to give them a 4-3 lead. Eric Scherger would shut the door from there and seal a 4-3 victory for the home team, making 21 total saves.

Ethan Grover nets the game winner vs 100 Mile. 📸 Tami Quan

After two wins to start the month, the Steam turn their attention to the league leading Chiefs on Tuesday night. The Chiefs picked up a 6-2 victory over the Fernie Ghostriders in their last game on Friday night, and did so without leading scorer Brody Dale. Dale is in the midst of serving a 2-game suspension levied for a major penalty taken in Kelowna’s 5-5 tie with Beaver Valley on October 27th, and won’t be available to Head Coach Ken Law on Tuesday night. The 19-year old from Quesnel has 53 points (20G, 33A) in 17 games this season.

While that’s a bonus for the Summerland Steam, the Chiefs have the depth to be scary even without the league’s leading scorer in their lineup. They took apart the Fernie Ghostriders on Friday night thanks to a two goal performance from Ryan Stack, as well as the first KIJHL goal’s for both Jordan Lowry and newly acquired Liam Drager. Kayson Gallant and defender Isaac Dutka had the other goals for the Chiefs, who got 23-saves from Braeden Mitchell in the victory. Expect Mitchell to go again Tuesday, as he’s played every game for the Chiefs since the 13th of October.

The Chiefs are the cream of the KIJHL crop as the league nears it’s halfway mark. Through 18 games they’ve recorded 34 of a possible 36 points, and boast the leagues top three scorers and one of it’s top goaltenders.

“That can’t scare us,” Said Head Coach John Depourcq when asked for his thoughts on the Chiefs, “They’re a good hockey team, and in the two games we’ve played against them Special Teams has been the difference. We’re a good hockey team too, but the minute they get in our heads is the minute we start to lose control. That can happen before the game even starts, and I think you’ve seen the Chiefs do that to a few teams this year. The message to our boys is that we can’t be one of those teams.”

The Chiefs, 16-0-1-1, lead the KIJHL in almost all major offensive categories, outscoring their opponents by a +64 margin in their 18 games so far. They’ve lit the lamp 104 times (5.78 per game, 1st in KIJHL) and only allowed 40 goals against (2.22 per game, 3rd in KIJHL), and are a team full of depth with no glaring weaknesses. When asked, Steam Head Coach John Depourcq offered this:

“We have to make them earn their space out there and fight for every inch, plain and simple. We have to outwork them, we have to be disciplined and make ourselves hard to play against. If we do that, we’ll have a chance. If we don’t, it’s going to be a very long night for us.”

The Steam have been on quite a run lately, themselves. They’re 7-1-1-1 in their last 10 games, and they’ve jumped up the power play percentage ladder almost 7% in that span to 10th in the 20 team KIJHL. Their record in the past ten games has spoken for itself, but they’ve done it while battling the injury bug roaming around the dressing room.

It is likely that Summerland will get a couple of bodies back into their lineup on Tuesday night, which will give Head Coach John Depourcq option to make some changes to his lineup if he so chooses. Lately, he’s had both Ethan Grover and Tristan Hewitt playing defense in the absence of some regulars, and both have excelled.

“Both Grover and Hewy have been good for us back there,” He says, “They’re called upon a lot to play a position that they, Hewy in particular, may not be comfortable with at this level and I think they’ve acquitted themselves quite well. Now that we’re getting healthy again it’s going to give us some options, as coaches, to manipulate our lineup a little bit and find the right personnel for the matchups that we want to play. Having those swing guys in your lineup that can play both forward and defense are a real asset and we’re lucky to have a couple of them here.”

Summerland and Kelowna will lock up for the third time this season on Tuesday night. The Chiefs lead the season series 2-0 on the back of a 7-2 thumping in Rutland on September 25th, and a 4-2 victory at the Summerland Arena just 10 days later on October 5. In those two contests the Chiefs scored 11 times, 7 of them on the power play. Their power play has gone 7/11 against the Steam penalty kill in two games this season, and that’s something that Summerland’s going to have to figure out if they want to try and hand the Chiefs their first regulation loss on Tuesday night.

Puck drop is 7:30pm from the Summerland Arena, with pre-game going on playfullscreen.com starting at 7:15 with myself and Joel Barg.

STEAM PREP FOR THUNDER CATS AFTER PAIR OF ROAD LOSSES

The Summerland Steam spent the weekend on the bus last weekend, taking a 5-4 2OT loss to the North Okanagan Knights on Friday, and a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Garrett Hilton and the 100 Mile House Wranglers on Saturday night in the South Cariboo. The Steam won’t have to wait long to exact revenge on the Wranglers, as they’ll face-off again this Saturday night at the Summerland Arena.

In the game against North Okanagan on Friday, the Steam jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Knights mounted a furious comeback. Goals from Zak Cooper (4), Cody Swan (5) and Ethan Grover (2) had the Steam up 3-0 before the Jett Saharchuk show took over for the Knights. Saharchuk notched a pair of goals and two assists in the Knights’ comeback attempt, and actually helped the Knights take the lead on the power play with 3:05 remaining in the game. It took a Morey Babakaiff goal (3) with :32 remaining to get the Steam at least a point, before Cole Haberlack would seal it for the Knights deep in 2ot.

Eric Scherger made 34 saves in the losing effort, while Summerland piled 48 shots on Knights newcomer Devin Chapman in goal.

After the ride home Friday night from Armstrong, the Steam were straight back onto the bus and headed for the South Cariboo on Saturday to play the 100 Mile House Wranglers. It’s almost like a home game for the Steam when they play in 100 Mile House, because the Williams Lake contingent travels to support the team in a big way. Unfortunately, the Wranglers’ power play got the best of them, going 3/6 on route to a 5-0 win. Garrett Hilton led the wranglers with a hat-trick and two assists, and was in on all 5 goals that beat Jared Breitkreuz, who made 30 saves.

Daniel Allin stopped 35 for the Wranglers for his second shut out of the season. On Sunday, Allin signed with the Drumheller Dragons of the AJHL and is no longer with the Wranglers.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Next up for the Steam are the Creston Valley Thundercats on Friday night and the 100 Mile House Wranglers on Saturday. This weekend marks the Steam’s PARENTS WEEKEND, so there will be a few familiar faces around to take in events on both Friday and Saturday nights at the Summerland Arena.

The Creston Valley Thunder Cats come into the Summerland Arena for the first time in four seasons riding a 5-9-0-2 record and sitting 5th in a very tough Eddie Mountain Division. They haven’t made a visit to The Station since November 21, 2014, on a night where a Jack Mills power play goal completed a Steam comeback to take a 4-3 victory.

They’ve undergone a bit of a youth movement this season, and not just on the ice. At the helm is Head Coach and General Manager Nick Redding, who at 27 years of age (Happy Birthday on October 29) is the youngest Head Coach in the KIJHL. Redding played 196 games over four seasons in the KIJHL for the Spokane Braves before playing at Eastern Washington University for three years. Upon leaving Eastern Washington, he was an Assistant Coach and General Manager for the Braves in 2017/18 before taking the job in Creston Valley a couple of games into this season.

Not only do the T-Cats have Nick Redding on their bench, but Assistant Coach Jesse Collins as well. Collins is just 25-years old, and the KIJHL’s all-time leader in both assists and points. Collins played for both the Braves and the Thunder Cats as a player, and amassed 227 assists and 319 total points to lead the KIJHL in both categories. He had his number retired in Creston a couple of years ago and is widely known as one of the best players their franchise has had in recent memory.

These guys know what it takes to play and succeed in the KIJHL. Their record may not show it now at 5-9-0-2, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the Thunder Cats are in a fight for a playoff spot for most of the season. They play in arguably the toughest division in the KIJHL with the Fernie Ghostriders, Kimberley Dynamiters, Golden Rockets and Columbia Valley Rockies all sporting records above a .500% win percentage. There are no easy games in the Eddie Mountain Division, and that will condition the Thunder Cats well against most other competition league wide.

They’re led offensively by Tyler Witzke, who’s recorded 10 goals and 18 points in 12 games this season. Witzke is one of nine players with KIJHL experience on the Thunder Cats roster, having recorded 44 points in 40 games last season with the T-Cats. He serves as the Captain, and has led by example along with defenseman Andrew Clark and forward Carson Small in the points category.

Offensively, the Thunder Cats seem to hang with a lot of teams, particularly in that tough division. By the looks of things, their minus-20 goal differential in particular, they may tend to get into a “run & gun” type of style that costs them goals against. They sit in the middle of the KIJHL pack in ‘Goals For’ statistics with 48, tied with Golden and Spokane at #11 in the 20 team league. The ‘Goals Against’ statistic, however, is the one that stands out. The T-Cats have given up 68 goals, which beats only Grand Forks (72) and Kamloops (78) at the bottom of the sorting order.

This doesn’t mean they can by any means be taken lightly. A team has to play smart, strong hockey if they want a chance to pick up a couple of points against a hard working T-Cats team, because there are certainly ways an offensively minded team will beat you if you let them.

That is especially true of the Thunder Cats, who have a goaltender in Calgary native Sam Burford who has occasion to ‘steal the show’ to go along with their offense. In 12 appearances this season, Burford has a 4-7 record. In his 4 wins, he’s stopped all but six of 167 shots, which leaves him with a goals against average just over 1 (1.04) and a save percentage over 96% in those games. Overall, Burford carries a 4.11 GAA and .902% save percentage, with large attribution to a pair of games against Kelowna and Kimberley where 10 goals and 7 goals were allowed, respectively.

Burford and his counterpart, Eric Samyn, have faced less than 30 shots just twice in the Creston goal in the team’s 16 games, which says (to me, at least) that as a team the Thunder Cats press forward a lot and might hang their back end ‘out to dry’ on occasion. There aren’t many easy nights in the Creston Valley crease, and Burford and Samyn have done well this season with such a high volume of shots against.

The Thunder Cats do a lot of their offensive damage, 35% of it in fact, on their power play. It’s been a bright spot for them this season, collecting 17 power play goals on 91 opportunities for an 18.68% conversion rate. That’s good for 8th in the league, HOWEVER, they’ve given up a league leading 9 shorthanded goals against so far in just 16 games. If there’s anything Summerland can take advantage of with the T-Cats, it’s that. Summerland’s power play sits 13th in the KIJHL, while their penalty kill is 16th across the 20 team league. If there’s one knock on the Summerland penalty kill it might be that they’re a little too aggressive, which actually may work in their favour against the T-Cats power play.

This will be the case for both games this weekend, as after the Creston Valley Thunder Cats visit on Friday, the 100 Mile House Wranglers come in for a visit on Saturday night. The Steam and the Wranglers locked up last weekend in the South Cariboo, with Garrett Hilton and the Wranglers coming away with a 5-0 victory. Hilton had a hat trick and a pair of assists to figure in on all five Wranglers’ goals in the win, while Daniel Allin made 35 saves. Allin, no longer with the Wranglers, signed with the Drumheller Dragons of the AJHL the day after that performance.

One thing you can guarantee from a Dale Hladun led Wranglers team is that they’ll work hard, and they’ll take a physical approach. They’ve got some size, grit and a whole bunch of skill, which has got them in 3-horse race at the top of the Doug Birks Division with Revelstoke and Sicamous. Revelstoke is the clear front-runner, but the rest remains up for grabs.

For the Steam it’s about keeping things simple this weekend. Stay out of the penalty box, move as a 5-man unit, and make the most of the opportunities created by sticking to the systems in place. They’ve played very well as of late, going 5-2-1-1 in the month of October, and will need to keep that roll going as they come into a tough part of the schedule on home ice through November. They’ll play 8 total home games in November, and see Creston, 100 Mile House, Kelowna, Osoyoos, Sicamous, Kimberley, 100 Mile House again, and Revelstoke at home. They’ll also travel to Chase in their only road game of the month.

It’s going to be a month that dictates a lot of what the standings will look like as we head down the stretch, and it’s going to be fun to watch a young Summerland team come together against some of the league’s top competition at the Summerland Arena.

Puck drop goes both Friday and Saturday from the Summerland Arena at 7:30pm, with the broadcast starting on playfullscreen.com with pre-game at 7:15pm.