‘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!

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