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.