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.

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