SCHERGER BACKSTOPS STEAM TO BIGGEST WEEKEND SWEEP

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Photo: Dunsmoor Creative | Steve Dunsmoor, Kelowna, BC

January 15, 2018

Summerland, BC – Heading into this weekend’s games if you tapped one as a rivalry and one that could have potentially brewed some bad blood, you surely would have circled Friday night’s game against the Kelowna Chiefs. With the Chiefs on tap Friday and the Doug Birks Division leading Revelstoke Grizzlies up next on Saturday, Summerland surely would have been happy to find a pair of points in what is likely the toughest back-to-back set anyone will see this season. Summerland saw their closest geographical rival on Friday, and possibly their furthest geographical rival on Saturday, and didn’t disappoint in their performance on either night, picking up a pair of 4-3 victories.

The last time the Steam went into Rutland they put the boots to the then undefeated-in-regulation Kelowna Chiefs to the tune of a 7-2 victory, and they were looking to do it again on Friday night.

Eric Scherger received the tap from Head Coach John Depourcq to face the best offense in the league, albeit missing a couple of big guns. The Chiefs were without Brody Dale and Devin Sutton on Friday night, as well as goal scoring machine Ryan Stack.

Summerland got off to a fast start, using the same recipe they used in that 7-2 victory on December 1st to get a jump on the Chiefs. They put pucks behind the Chiefs’ defenders, and were able to beat them on the forecheck to create their opportunities.

They cashed in on one of those opportunities at 13:19 of the first period when Mitch Gove was able to convert a 2-on-1 for his 13th of the season. Gove started the play by receiving a turnover at the Summerland blue line. He moved the puck to the left wing to Lane French who beat his guy wide, and fed a streaking Gove who beat Braeden Mitchell in the Kelowna net to give the Steam a 1-0 lead.

Cory Loring would then add to the Summerland lead with 5:23 remaining in the first period, beating Mitchell up high through a screen. The power play goal, Loring’s 12th of the season, would give Summerland a 2-0 lead at the first intermission.

They’d add to it in the second period, as Gove was at it again with his blazing speed. He was able to force a turnover at the Summerland blue line once again, this time short handed, and was off to the races. With his speed, he’s not often caught, and he was able to beat Mitchell high over the glove to extend Summerland’s lead to three.

Myles Mattilla would cut the deficit to two before the end of the period, scoring on a sharp angle shot with 3:29 to play in the second. Mattilla’s 12th of the year came unassisted as he won a puck battle in the corner and swung a puck on goal, surprising Eric Scherger to make it a 3-1 game.

The Steam would batten down the hatches defensively in the third period, and were rewarded with another goal as Cody Swan scored his 17th of the season with 8:14 to play. The goal would prove huge, as it would eventually stand as the game winner despite giving Summerland a 4-1 lead at the time. Kelowna would add a pair of power play goals in the late going, with Kaden Stewart and and Tyler Love tallying with 6:43 and 5:25 to play, respectively. Stewart’s 6th of the season came on a pass from Love, who put the puck out front of Eric Scherger for Stewart to bang home. Love’s 9th of the year came just over a minute later and made things interesting, cutting the Steam lead to just a goal.

Summerland was able to stem the tide, however, and picked up their second victory in a row at Rutland Arena. They remain the only team to beat the Kelowna Chiefs in regulation, as well as the only team to take points away from Rutland Arena this season. One thing this game wasn’t though was rough. Both teams played fast, physical, clean hockey that resulted in an exciting night for fans at Rutland Arena that lacked nothing except stupidity.

Eric Scherger was sensational for the Steam, backstopping them to their second consecutive road win over the Chiefs with 36 saves. The biggest of those saves came in the second period when he made three consecutive breakaway saves in a span of about five minutes, all while Summerland was on the power play. Scherger was able to shut the door and keep the momentum moving in favour of the Steam, and they were able to pick up a victory likely because of those three saves.

Cody Swan netted a goal and a pair of assists, while Mitch Gove had a pair of each, with two goals and two helpers on the night. Lane French also chimed in with a pair of assists.

All the rough and tumble stupidity that we periodically see in a game between Summerland and Kelowna was saved for Saturday night in Revelstoke. The Steam took on the Revelstoke Grizzlies at the always lively Revelstoke Forum, looking to avenge a 5-3 home ice loss that got a little nasty late in November.

The Steam and the Grizzlies have built a bit of a nasty rivalry over the past couple of seasons, despite not being divisional rivals. Looking back on past boxscores, you’ll find entries mired with what are considered ‘predatory’ penalties like charging, elbowing, head contact, boarding and the like, as well as many, many fighting majors. One particular instance saw this photo shared by a Revelstoke news publication on a night where the two teams had a line brawl on route to a Summerland victory at the forum:

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For the record former Steam defenseman Konsta Jaske, pictured here, points at the scoreboard after an instance that saw he, Andrew York, Riley Pettitt, and a plethora of others involved in one of the nastiest brawls I’ve personally ever witnessed.

Since this date, October 15, 2016, the rivalry has been a big one despite only seeing each other two to three times a year. Saturday night at The Forum wasn’t much different than this, although it was a great hockey game until the bitter end.

The Grizzlies, the Doug Birks Division’s best team and the second place team in the Okanagan Shuswap Conference, came in looking for their second consecutive victory over the Steam after the aforementioned 5-3 victory in Summerland on November 24th, 2018. The Steam, meanwhile, were coming off that huge victory in Kelowna and looking to turn one win into two for an unlikely weekend sweep.

Eric Scherger would get a second consecutive start in the Summerland goal, earning it via his sensational 36 save performance in Kelowna the night before. Summerland got off to a good start once again, although it was the Grizzlies that opened the scoring courtesy of Ryan Bedard.  Bedard’s sixth of the season came with 8:20 remaining in period number one, after the teams traded chances in the first 11 minutes of play.

The score would stay 1-0 until the middle of the second period when Mitch Gove would hammer home his 15th of the season to tie the game at 1 on the power play. Gove found some open space and was the recipient of a good hard-work play from captain Everett Scherger, who dove to poke a loose puck his direction, and the younger Gove made no mistake.

He would connect again just 1:45 later, again on the power play from the exact same spot. The exact same play resulted in Cody Swan moving the puck to the point, and this time it was Cory Loring who would send the pass to Gove who hammered it past Grizzlies’ keeper Liam McGarva to give Summerland a lead.

The lead would disappear early in the third period as Grizzlies defender Matt Cadden would tie the game at two just 1:24 into the third period. Carter Anderson and Tommy Bodtker drew assists on the 17-year old Cadden’s 10th of the season, and the two teams found themselves back to square one in a physical, emotional hockey game.

Penalties were the theme of the night, although most were innocent enough. Summerland’s only even strength goal of the night came courtesy of Ty Banser, who scored his 5th of the season with 11:34 to play to give the Steam their lead back. Banser did good work to use both his body and his determination to find a loose puck in front of the Revelstoke crease, and was able to bat a puck past McGarva to give the Steam the lead. The assists went to Zack Cooper and Cory Loring, who both did excellent work below the goal line to free the puck up and get it to the front of the net for Banser to go get, and he made no mistake.

As the clock wound down, Summerland was able to employ the same mentality as they did the night previous in Kelowna. They took care of their own zone, made simple plays to clear pucks and force the Grizzlies to the outside. It looked like they were in complete control as time ticked off, and the Grizzlies found themselves scrambling enough to take a penalty in the late going. The Steam would capitalize on that man-advantage as captain Everett Scherger would locate a rebound at the side of the Grizzlies’ net and pound home his 11th of the season to extend the Steam lead to 4-2.

The goal from Scherger would stand as the winner, as a couple of late power plays afforded the Grizzlies an opportunity to cut the lead to just a goal thanks to Jaden Hay. The former North Okanagan Knight blasted home his 12th of the season (8th with the Grizzlies) from the left point to cut the lead to 4-3. Grizzlies leading scorer Kaeden Patrick would draw one assist with Ryan Pereverzoff tallying the other with just 22.6 seconds left on the clock.

That’s when the fun started.

Revelstoke would get one more opportunity in the offensive zone, still on the power play, and they appeared to make good on their chance. A goal negated by an obvious (stick above head type obvious) high stick brought a face-off outside the Summerland zone with 10.6 seconds remaining.

That’s when the fun REALLY started.

On the ensuing face-off won by the Steam, forward Morey Babakaiff picked up a puck and made a dash for the corner to the right of Eric Scherger to kill the clock. At the buzzer, he was pasted to the corner boards by Kaeden Patrick, who was assessed a boarding minor at the final buzzer. While the penalty is no matter, it triggered a melee deep in the Summerland zone that resulted in several suspensions to key players on both sides.

“They have six guys that charge him at 100 miles an hour,” said Head Coach John DePourcq when speaking with our Emanuel Sequeira, “Crush him into the boards. Well here you go, look out, it’s on. Everybody is swinging and punching. Wrestling.”

While details are scant on the happenings in the corner and what caused such heavy penalties, the resulting suspensions from the skirmish shook out as follows:

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Yes. You read that right. A combined 34 games worth of suspensions. Scherger was hit especially hard as he was released from the penalty box when the buzzer sounded, and headed into the corner to help his outnumbered teammates instead of skating across to the bench.

Revelstoke will miss their captain, Tommy Bodtker, leading goal scorer Ryan Pereverzoff, points leader Kaeden Patrick, one of their top defensemen in Matt Cadden, and forward Jon Vandermolen for their January 15th bout against the Chase Heat. Bodtker, Pereverzoff, and Cadden will also miss a pair of games against the divisional rival 100 Mile House Wranglers and a bout with the Sicamous Eagles as part of their suspensions.

Summerland on the other hand will be without Everett Scherger for an extended period of time, with him eligible to return for the final regular season game on February 23rd in Osoyoos, barring any appeals. They’ll also miss Cairo Rogers, Bevis Chou, and Morey Babakaiff for their Friday night matchup with the Kamloops Storm this week, before getting only Babakaiff back for a Saturday night tilt with the North Okanagan Knights.

Rogers and Chou, along with Scherger of course, will miss the following games against the Osoyoos Coyotes and Princeton Posse as part of their suspensions as well.

What was lost because of the blow up at the buzzer was a 4-3 Summerland victory in a game that was FANTASTIC to watch. The Revelstoke Forum was packed with 650+ people who were loud, boisterous and into every minute of the action from start to finish. Two teams who sit near the top of the league standings that don’t like each other went toe-to-toe in what Depourcq called an “old time hockey game”, and left fans waiting for the rematch. That rematch takes place on February 9th once again at the Forum in Revelstoke, and if you can make it to the Forum that night, it’s highly recommended.

Eric Scherger was masterful in the Summerland crease for a second straight night, stopping 50 of 53 shots the Grizzlies sent his way. In total, he finished the weekend good on 86 of 92 shots faced, for a .935% save percentage against the conference’s two best teams in Kelowna and Revelstoke. Scherger wasn’t the only one who came to play, however. Mitch Gove tallied 4 goals and six points in the two contests, while Cody Swan drove offense adding a goal and five assists.

As a whole, it was likely the best weekend of the season for the Steam. Start to finish they stuck to their game plan, minimized their mistakes against the best of their competition, and made the simple plays they need to make to give themselves a chance to win. Their defense held strong, their goaltender was their crutch, and their power play continued to pour in goals.

They scored four times on 16 opportunities over the two games this weekend, and have almost quietly scored the 4th most power play goals in the league with 43 in 37 games. Although they won’t likely average eight opportunities every game, they’re the type of team that has the ability to frustrate teams into taking penalties provided they don’t retaliate. This weekend they did a good job of limiting their retaliations, and it showed.

The line of Cody Swan, Lane French and Mitch Gove drove the offense for the Steam, and Head Coach John Depourcq liked what he saw.

“The line of Mitchell Gove, Lane French and Cody Swan were really good,” said DePourcq in an interview with Steam Media Correspondent Emanuel Sequeira, “It was a great team effort. Everybody played hard, played well. When they are all together and they are healthy, they have got to be one of the top lines in the league. They are very fast. French and Mitch Gove, there is a lot of speed there to go with Cody Swan. You add his skill to their speed, they generated a lot of opportunities.”

The big line up front did well to make good on opportunities provided by their goaltender making big saves at the other end in both games. When asked about Scherger, Depourcq of course had nothing but praise.

“A great weekend for everybody, really, but he was just fantastic. An amazing weekend in goal for Eric,” Said Depourcq, “He made the big saves when we needed them and controlled the rebounds.”

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Photo: Dunsmoor Creative | Steve Dunsmoor, Kelowna BC

The Steam go back to work at practice this week and some affiliate players will likely get a work out, as they’ll have four guys guaranteed to be out of the lineup come Friday when they travel to take on the Kamloops Storm. The team will return home Saturday night for date with the North Okanagan Knights, who have pushed past the Princeton Posse for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Okanagan Division.

Puck drop for that contest will be 7:30pm from the Summerland Arena.

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