File Photo: Tami Quan Photography 📸

JANUARY 4, 2019


Coming off a two week holiday break, the Summerland Steam were able to ‘tread water’ and gain a split in two early morning games at the inaugural KIJHL Showcase last weekend in Kamloops. While not ideal in the time of year or the game times the Steam drew, the Showcase was put together to allow players to show their talent in front of scouts from both Jr. A and the college ranks, and the Steam did not disappoint.

In the first (and hopefully last) 8:00am game in Steam franchise history, they were listed as the ‘visitors’ against the Grand Forks Border Bruins. In the first meeting with the Border Bruins since the 2015/16 season, it took both teams nearly half a game to wake up and get moving.

Cody Swan opened the scoring with his 16th of the season, unassisted, at 11:02 to give the Steam a 1-0 lead. Brett Wilson would then chime in with his third of the season, which would stand as the game winner, with 1:39 remaining in the second period. Strangely, Wilson’s third of the season came in the same place as his first two, the Kamloops Memorial Arena. Wilson scored a pair of goals in a 12-2 victory in Kamloops against the Storm on October 13th and went 16 games between goals.

The Steam did well to keep their foot on the gas pedal to start the third period, adding a pair of goals to take a 4-0 lead and coast to the finish line. Cory Loring scored a power play goal, his 11th of the season, with 12:24 remaining in the period. Everett Scherger would then add his 9th, unassisted, with 2:35 to play to close out the scoring for the Steam.

Jared Breitkreuz looked poised to collect his third shutout of the year, but a long shot from Border Bruins Captain Evan Gorman (14) would beat him with :40 on the clock. No matter, Breitkreuz was solid in the victory, his 11th of the season, and earned another start the next morning against the Fernie Ghostriders.

Breitkreuz was again solid, but Summerland couldn’t overcome the power play of the Ghostriders. The Riders went 2/5 on the power play, and dumped one into an empty net to take a 4-2 victory on ‘get away day’ for both teams at the Showcase. Everett Scherger (10) tied the game at 1 in the second period after Fernie’s Johnny Elias had given the Riders the lead through a period.

After Scherger’s goal, Ghostrider and former Steam forward Gavin Lawrie made his presence known. Lawrie scored a goal and added an assist in the game, including a goal in the second period to give the Riders a 2-1 lead, and an assist on the game winner early in the third period. That game winner came off the stick of Nicholas Sombrowski, who would also add an empty netter for the Riders to seal the victory. The empty netter came after a highlight reel goal from Morey Babakaiff, his 12th of the season, as he was able to burn a defender wide down the right wing and cut across to an empty net to cut the lead to a goal with 8:00 and change remaining. The Sombrowski empty netter would seal the deal and send the Steam home with a split.

Throughout the showcase, the Steam were without key forwards Mitch Gove (illness) and the newly acquired Lane French (undisclosed) for both games. They were also missing Kaden Moravek for Saturday’s 4-2 loss against Fernie.

With the showcase over and the month of January’s games about to begin, a quick look back shows a successful month for a young, growing Summerland Steam hockey club. They picked up their biggest win of the season to start the month in Rutland by a 7-2 score over the Kelowna Chiefs. Overall they went 4-2 in December, with their two losses coming at the hands of the North Okanagan Knights (December 14) and the Fernie Ghostriders (December 29) both by 4-2 scores that included empty net goals.

Cody Swan and Everett Scherger both led the way offensively and should likely get some consideration for the Okanagan Shuswap Player of the Month Award. Swan recorded six goals and 10 points in six games, while Scherger tallied three goals and nine points in five games throughout the month. Jared Breitkreuz may garner some attention as well, as he went 3-1 with a 2.25 goals against average and a .921 Save Percentage in four starts.

The Steam will start their January schedule with a pair of home games this weekend against Doug Birks Division opponents. The Kamloops Storm arrive for a tilt on Friday night, while the Sicamous Eagles visit on Saturday.

The Storm will surely come into Summerland on Friday night hoping to find some retribution for a 12-2 beating laid on them by the Steam on October 13th at Kamloops Memorial Arena. After that game the Storm rattled off five straight wins, their most lucrative stretch this season, and have a total record of 9-8-0-2 in 19 games since these two teams last met.

The Storm are led up front by a pair of veteran forwards in Therran Kincross, Chris Thon and rookie James Lilikeas. The three have combined for 29 of the Storm’s 79 goals scored this season, counting for 36% of total scoring. They’ve also added some KIJHL experience to their blue line recently, adding Jason Scheible from the North Okanagan Knights, as well as Kamloops native Harrison Rosch. Rosch started the season with Revelstoke before being traded to Osoyoos in a trade that saw four players moved, three of whom didn’t report and the other (Breckin Erichuk, now with Chase) traded after just one game.

Both blue liners are considered puck movers, who play a solid two-way game and create good breakouts with a good first pass. This is one of the most underrated things a player can do to help a young team, and both have provided that so far for the Storm. They currently sit 4th in the Doug Birks Division, and are trying to catch the third place Sicamous Eagles. The 5th place Chase Heat have been steadily improving this season as well, so both the Storm and the Eagles, who come in this weekend as well, will be looking to gain as many points in the standings as possible.

The Eagles are 5-5 in their last ten games, and picked up wins at the KIJHL Showcase over Beaver Valley (4-2) and Fernie (3-1). Their ace is goaltender Cole Steinke, who carries a 2.82 GAA and .916% save percentage into this coming weekend’s games. The last time the two teams met, the Steam were able to get traffic to the front of his net and create some problems.

The visitors from the Shuswap, coached by Rob Fitzpatrick, are led up front by Aaron Plessis. Plessis is currently averaging nearly a point per game with 26 points (10g + 16a) in 29 games, and leads the team in almost all offensive categories. The last time the Steam and the Eagles faced off, the goal of Summerland’s defense was to shut down Plessis and his linemates, and they were able to do so en route to a 4-1 victory. The same will have to happen again if Summerland wants to pick up a pair of points and strengthen their hold on the second position in the Okanagan Division standings.

The Eagles are home to the vaunted Kelowna Chiefs on Friday night, before travelling to Summerland on Saturday. The Kamloops Storm, meanwhile, will travel to Revelstoke to face the Doug Birks Division leading Grizzlies on Saturday night.

Puck drop for both games this weekend will be 7:30pm at the Summerland Arena, and I’m pleased to be back in the broadcast booth alongside Joel Barg to bring all the action to life on starting with pre-game at 7:15pm each night.

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