December 12, 2018

Summerland, BC – The Summerland Steam played their only two games of the month at the Summerland Arena this past weekend, picking up a pair of wins against the Chase Heat and the North Okanagan Knights. Looking at the standings, one would have thought it should be a breezy weekend for the Steam, with the Knights and the Heat sitting 5th in their respective divisions, and ninth and tenth in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference, respectively.

That of course, is on paper.

In reality, most teams in the league know that there’s never an easy game and any team can beat any other team on just about any given night. The Steam, for instance, were stomped by an 8-3 score the last time they visited Chase, and had a win and an overtime loss in two starts against the Knights heading into this weekend.

Summerland got the start they wanted, with Mitch Gove scoring his 9th of the season on a power play just over five minutes into the hockey game. Gove had a couple of attempts at the goal that were thwarted by Heat starter Geoff Drought, but he was successful on the third attempt. After Cairo Rogers retrieved a loose puck behind the Chase goal, it found Bevis Chou at the right point. Chou fed Gove at the left point, who went cross-seam for captain Everett Scherger. Scherger fed a pass back through the middle for what turned into a pretty give & go, and Gove finished it with a purpose to give his team a 1-0 lead.

The lead would hold until the middle of the second period when the Chase Heat were able to break through on the power play. With time winding down in a penalty to Everett Scherger, Chase broke up the right wing side. Heat captain Cam Watson fed it cross-ice for Evan Hughes, who buried it behind Jared Breitkreuz to tie the game at one goal apiece.

The tie would last just :31, as Mitch Gove again broke it with speed down the wing and a great move on Geoff Drought. As the puck came back into Summerland’s zone off the ensuing face-off, it swung around to the wall. Zack Cooper did a great job to move the puck through the middle of the ice, knowing he was going to take a hard hit from a Chase forechecker, and it sent Gove away with speed. He sped around a pair of defenders for a clear cut breakaway and made no mistake, going to his backhand and slipping it through the five-hole to restore the lead. Gove’s 10th of the season, assisted by Cooper and Chou, would send the Steam to the second period break with a one-goal lead.

The lead would stand through the first half of the third period, but Chase would eventually tie the hockey game at 2 with 11:42 to play. Cam Watson was the recipient of a drop pass from Branden Gremaud off the rush, and Watson made no mistake walking to the middle of the ice and wiring one by Breitkreuz to tie the score.

As the game went on it looked as though both teams were okay taking a point and forcing overtime, as play became slightly tentative with both teams trying not to make the last mistake. The mistake, however, was made by the Chase Heat as Ty Banser was able to pick a puck up at the Heat blue line and have a clear lane to the goal. Banser made no mistake beating Drought to the glove side for his 4th of the season, which would eventually stand as the game winner.

Summerland’s Jared Breitkreuz was once again solid in goal, turning away 27 Chase shots to pick up the victory. His biggest save of the night came on a Breckin Erichuk breakaway with just over 2:00 on the clock, preserving the one goal lead and eventual one-goal victory.

Breitkreuz improves his win-loss record to 10-6-0-1 in 18 appearances, including wins in three of his past four starts. He would receive the night off on Saturday, as Eric Scherger would take the net for Summerland to face the North Okanagan Knights. Scherger wouldn’t be busy on the night, facing just 14 shots on goal in a 6-3 Summerland victory.

The Knights would open the scoring thanks to a breakaway from Cameron MacKenzie late in the first period, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead after one.

Alec McLeod would add one for the Knights near the midway mark of period two to get them a two goal lead, and Summerland looked to be in deep once again against a team that was missing their top scorer in Jett Saharchuk as well as scoring winger Austin O’Neill and defenseman Raj Sangha.

There wasn’t much structure to it, but the Knights had a 2-goal lead until the 7:22 mark of the second period when Cairo Rogers netted his 5th of the season to cut the lead to 2-1. Rogers was the recipient of a pass from Morey Babakaiff in the slot, and he made no mistake in beating Knights goalie Austin Madge low to the blocker side.

Cody Swan would then chime in just 1:51 later to tie the game with his 13th of the season. Zack Cooper and Everett Scherger would assist on the goal, getting the puck to the slot for Swan to find. Swan did so, making a juke move to his right to find a puck and deposit it into the goal while falling down to tie the game at two.

Kevin-Thomas Walters would restore the lead for the Knights 1:42 after Swan tied the game, beating Eric Scherger to give the Knights a 3-2 lead.

Rogers, off a won draw by Everett Scherger and a bump back from Babakaiff, would deposit his second of the night and sixth of the season with :28 seconds left in the period to tie the game at three headed to the third frame. The goal came just :03 into a power play, and would be the first of three straight power play goals for the Steam to give them a commanding lead.

With the game tied at three, Summerland managed to find their legs to start the third period, and looked once again like the team that beat Kelowna by a 7-2 score on December 1st.

Mitch Gove would score the eventual game winner with 11:29 to play in the third period, on the power play, with a shot through traffic that found the top corner from the left point. Gove’s 12th of the season, assisted by Liam McLaren and Everett Scherger, would be all Summerland needed. It wasn’t all they would get.

Cody Swan scored his second of the night from an impossible angle just 1:08 later to give the Steam a commanding 2-goal lead. Swan was able to take a pass at the right post on the power play, and somehow beat Madge with a backhander for his 14th of the season.

Summerland would sit on that lead for the remainder of the night, adding a hat-trick goal from Cairo Rogers to seal the 6-3 victory. Rogers did great work to get to the front of the net and locate a rebound sitting in the crease for his seventh of the season to complete the hat trick.

In all, it was a pretty sloppy night for both teams and Summerland found a way to come out on top. The first two periods were unstructured in all zones as both teams struggled to establish their systems. Summerland was able to get back to their systems late in the second period, and used their talent to come away with a victory.

For Cairo Rogers, it was what I would call his best game of the season. He was tenacious on the forecheck, rode the line of physical play, and was rewarded with a trio of goals for his first KIJHL hat trick. The line of Rogers, Morey Babakaiff and Liam McLaren has been utilized this season as a forecheck heavy line for Head Coach John Depourcq, and it’s a style that suits the three of them perfectly. They along with the likes of Scherger, the Wilson twins, and Zack Cooper in particular make Summerland really difficult to handle up front, and it was evident this past weekend as they were able to overpower their opponents and let their talent take over.

The McLaren-Rogers-Babakaiff line combined for nine points on Saturday night, and will look to ride that wave this weekend when Summerland travels to North Okanagan. Not only will Summerland have the majority of their personnel available, but they’ve added a little more ‘bite’ to their lineup with the addition of Lane French this week from the Princeton Posse.

French, the Posse’s captain, comes to Summerland after two seasons in Princeton that established him as a fast, physical player with one of the hardest shots in the KIJHL. He deepens Summerland’s forward group and makes them even tougher to play against, which is something that will be required come playoff time if there’s any hope of getting out of the division and past the vaunted Kelowna Chiefs.

Having won three games in a row, Summerland will look to continue a hot run in December next Friday night when they head to Armstrong to face the North Okanagan Knights.

The Steam, 6-3-0-1 in their past ten games, have been riding a hot power play and improved defensive zone coverage as of late, and that will have to continue if they want to close the gap at the top of the conference with the Chiefs and the Revelstoke Grizzlies.


After the game on Friday the team will go separate ways for the holiday break before playing their two showcase games on December 28th at 8:00AM against Grand Forks, and December 29th at 10:00AM against Fernie. The timing of the showcase and the game times aren’t ideal, but it is what it is and they’ll look to be prepared to play meaningful games with start times earlier than their usual wake up times.

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