OFFENSE EXPLODES AS STEAM READY FOR PLAYOFF DRIVE

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2017/18 File Photo: Victoria Rich

FEBRUARY 25, 2019

SUMMERLAND, BC – For the past month or so, the Summerland Steam have found inconsistency to be their worst enemy. They won games against big ticket teams like Revelstoke and Kelowna, and found defeat against the likes of the Kamloops Storm, Sicamous Eagles and the North Okanagan Knights who will miss the KIJHL post-season. Suspension and injury have surely played a factor, but it’s no secret that Head Coach John DePourcq hasn’t been getting what he expects from his team in any area of the ice.

This weekend, with the playoffs looming, the Steam were able to get back to that hard, dominating style of hockey that wins them games. They’re at their best when they use their speed and physical nature to their advantage, and this past weekend it created chances upon chances for them to score goals. 16 of them in fact, in two games. That’s as many as they’d scored in their previous ten.

In the ten games missed during team captain Everett Scherger’s marathon 11-game suspension leading into #11 on Friday, the Steam had been outscored 28-16 and found themselves sputtering to a 3-7 record. They put a stop to it against the North Okanagan Knights, making themselves 6-1 winners in convincing fashion in their second to last game of the regular season.

Cody Swan netted a hat trick (19, 20, 21) and a pair of assists, while Ty Banser (6), Lane French (14), and Dawson Jenner (1) also tallied for the home team. Jared Breitkreuz made 24 saves in victory in a game that saw just four power plays between the two teams. There were no misconducts, no coincidental penalties, and no overmanagement from referee Tyler Watson. He simply let the teams play, which was quite frankly a bit refreshing.

Saturday sparked the return of Summerland’s captain, Everett Scherger. After missing eleven games to suspension, he received the ‘anthem call’ from Head Coach John DePourcq in his final regular season game. Linden Gove, Dawson Jenner and Jared Breitkreuz, the other 20-year olds who will move on at season’s end also got that same call.

The scoring began early for the Summerland Steam on this night and didn’t stop. Morey Babakaiff (14, 15) scored a pair of goals in the opening five minutes of the contest, and the rout was evident. The Coyotes, 5-0 losers the night before in Princeton, had their fate sealed with the loss and knew they would face the Kelowna Chiefs in Round 1. They sat five of their regulars, including Peter Michailides and Brock Marple, but started #1 goaltender Daniel Paul in a game that most thought Bailey Monteith would start to give Paul a break.

That wasn’t the case, and it didn’t matter, as Summerland added a third goal in the first ten minutes, on a power play from Cody Swan (22). They would add a third power play goal with 7:34 remaining in the first off the stick of Ty Banser (7) to put them up 4-0 at the first period break.

The prevailing thought was that if Daniel Paul was the one to start the game, conceivable that the 20-year old would start his final Jr. game at home, that he would have been spared the second and third period after the Steam jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Again, that wasn’t the case, as Interim Head Coach Dean Maynard left his 20-year old superstar in goal all night long as things continued to get worse for the Coyotes.

In the second period the unrelenting pressure continued, and Liam McLaren would bury his 12th of the season into the top corner to extend the lead to 5-0 in the early stages.

With the lead at five and Summerland killing a penalty, that’s when the world stopped but for a minute. With a puck coming around the boards, Everett Scherger chased it down to clear the zone on a penalty kill. As he did so, he was blindsided by a streaking Bryson Garska, and driven into the boards. Garska’s intent, it seemed, was to put Scherger through the boards. Both players, however, fell down just prior to contact, and it resulted in an awkward interference major and a game misconduct for the latter.

The former, Scherger, remained on the ice for several minutes as Steam Head Athletic Therapist Josh Jenkinson assessed him. He was helped off the ice by several teammates, and eventually taken by ambulance to South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver for precautionary reasons. After undergoing tests doctors determined no major damage, and Scherger was released. He is questionable for Game 1 of the playoffs on Tuesday night.

This seemed to be the intent of the Coyotes for most of the night on Saturday. Summerland did well to be diligent in most cases to not catch the flying elbows, high sticks and potential hits from behind that the ‘Yotes looked to deliver, and what was more impressive was that they didn’t retaliate. Instead they took their power plays, and went 4-for-8 in a game that quickly turned into a rout.

Mitch Gove would score his 19th of the season to round out second period scoring at 6-0, weaving through every player on the ice to score another power play goal with 4:03 on the clock.

In the third, the Coyotes would get a goal courtesy of Austin O’Neil. O’Neil’s third as a Coyote and 10th goal of the season cut the deficit to 6-1, but Summerland would continue to pour it on. Cairo Rogers would score his 8th of the season, before Cory Loring made it 8-1 with 10:27 to play.

In the grand scheme the 8th goal of the game wasn’t significant, except for the assist awarded to Steam forward Cody Swan. With his fourth point of the night and ninth point in two games on the goal, Swan set a new franchise record for points in a single season with 68. He passes Jack Mills on the all-time list, who set the record in 2015/16 with 67 regular season points.

Lane French (15) and Swan (23) would add two more goals in the late going for Summerland, while Bryson Rody added his third of the season for the Coyotes with just change left on the clock to make it 10-2.

In all it was a good night for the Summerland Steam. They used their speed to their advantage and were physical on the forecheck. They were also disciplined, which is a phrase that’s been not often used during the 2018/19 season.

They’ll head into the playoffs having scored 16 goals in their last two games, and will face a tough Princeton Posse squad that’s been playing well recently. On Saturday night they became just the second team this season to beat the Kelowna Chiefs in regulation time and they did it with their starting goaltender, Jaysen MacLean, in the stands.

Princeton possesses the great equalizer, and that’s their home rink. The small, cramped quarters of the Princeton & District Arena has posed problems for teams this season, and the Summerland Steam have fallen victim there twice. Likewise, the Steam won two of three meetings at the Summerland Arena, so all of a sudden home ice advantage is a big deal. It’s important that Summerland pick up their victories on Tuesday and Wednesday night’s in Game 1 and 2, and go to Princeton looking to get themselves a 3-0 series lead on Friday night.

The highly skilled offense of the Summerland Steam will need to find ways to beat Princeton’s likely MVP, goaltender Jaysen MacLean. MacLean has had a sensational season despite his record, posting a 2.78 Goals Against Average and a .918% Save Percentage while facing a ton of action every night. Not only that, but he’s appeared in 37 of Princeton’s 49 games, second most in the KIJHL only to Ethan Paulin-Hatch of the Kamloops Storm, who appeared in 41 contests. MacLean, 19, is a big goaltender who moves well for his size and controls his rebounds. Summerland is going to have to focus on getting some bodies to the front of the net and disrupt both his flow and his field of vision if they’re going to be successful.

Another thing they’ll need to be cognizant of is the Posse’s propensity to block shots. Down the stretch, the Posse blocked more shots than any team (at least to the naked eye) and they do a good job of getting sticks and bodies in lanes. It seems to be a team mentality that’s had the majority of it’s players ‘buy in’, because it’s not just one or two guys who lay down to block, it’s all of them.

It will be interesting to see if Summerland can work around that fact, as well as defend the top tier talent the Princeton Posse have. Terrence Josephson and Achille Casali come to mind, as they lead the team in points and play the most minutes up front for Head Coach and GM Mark McNaughton.

Overall a fairly well balanced series should take place, and if both teams come to play we could be in for a long week and a half. Here’s the schedule for the series:

Steam vs Posse Round 1

Joel and I will be on the air with the Coastal Eye Clinic Pre-Game Show at 7:15 on Tuesday night, ahead of a 7:30pm puck drop for Game 1.

 

STEAM SPLIT WEEK, PREP FOR FINALE

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Photo: Chris Swan

FEBRUARY 20TH, 2019

SUMMERLAND, BC – All of a sudden, we’ve come upon the final weekend of the KIJHL Regular Season. Although the KIJHL Showcase feels like it wrapped up just days ago, the Summerland Steam find themselves searching for consistency and production as the playoffs approach.

They began their week with a 2-1 victory of the Osoyoos Coyotes last Wednesday night, pushing their record to 4-0-1-0 against their southern rivals this season. Brett Wilson (4, assisted by Mitchell Gove and Bevis Chou) and Linden Gove (19, assisted by Cody Swan and Morey Babakaiff) scored the goals, while Jared Breitkreuz made 26 saves in victory. Wyatt Wong replied for the visitors, while Bailey Monteith stopped 24 shots in the loss.

It was a game that saw Summerland get back to doing what they needed to do. They were able to limit their defensive zone turnovers, get the puck deep behind the Coyotes defenders, and use an effective forecheck to create opportunities for their offense. It bumped a four game skid, and also picked up regular season win # 200 for Head Coach John DePourcq.

“It was nice to get the W,” Said DePourcq with a chuckle in his pre-game coaches comments on Saturday night, “Unfortunately it comes after four in a row there where we faced a lot of different challenges. We had a long road trip going up to Sicamous then on to Revelstoke. Long bus rides, we got moved out of a hotel early and had to hang out in -30 degree weather up in Revy, and then playing in front of a packed house. These are all good experiences for the guys that all hockey players have to learn to deal with. It was nice to see the boys walk into Osoyoos after a few nights off and just play a good solid hockey game. They competed hard, they got involved and really worked their tails off and did well to come out of there with two points.”

Whatever good was done by getting it together on Wednesday night was undone in the first period on Friday, as the Steam gave up an early lead to the Princeton Posse and couldn’t claw back. With the Posse chasing a playoff spot and potentially a third place seeding and a trip to Summerland on February 26th, the Steam allowed them to come out hot and jump to a 3-0 lead. The Steam were outshot 18-3 in the frame while turning the puck over more than a dozen times, with Ethan Schmor, Aidan Avila and Trevor Gulenschyn tallying for the visiting Posse.

The Steam were much better in the final two periods, directing 27 shots on goal, but they couldn’t overcome the slow start. They also couldn’t beat Posse goaltender Jaysen MacLean who has been a workhorse for Head Coach Mark McNaughton and the Posse all season long. He’s appeared in 36 games this weekend, second to only Kamloops Storm goaltender Ethan Paulin-Hatch’s 39 appeareances. Despite a 13-18-1 record he carries a save percentage near .920%, and is a BIG part of why the Posse are in the hunt for the third spot in the Okanagan Division.

MacLean’s bid for a second shutout this season was spoiled in the final minute on Saturday when Summerland’s Cody Swan was able to tip a shot past him to cut the Posse lead to 3-1. Swan’s 18th of the season, assisted by Brett Wilson and Bevis Chou, would be the only goal of the night for a struggling Summerland offense as they fell by a 3-1 score.

For the Steam the theme has been all too common as of late. In the 10 games since completing a weekend sweep of Kelowna and Revelstoke on January 11th and 12th the team has gone 3-7 and been outscored 28-16. The offense has sputtered, as the Steam have scored more than two goals only once (5, January 25th vs Osoyoos) since all those suspensions were levied at the end of the game on January 12th. With just one game remaining in his suspension, it’s evident the Summerland Steam are excited for their captain, Everett Scherger, to be back in the lineup.

He has one more game to sit in purgatory and that will take place Friday, February 22nd at the Summerland Arena against the North Okanagan Knights. Scherger will be eligible to return for the team’s final regular season game on Saturday, February 23rd against the Osoyoos Coyotes.

The Knights, although winners by a 3-2 score in overtime on Monday night against Princeton, are out of the Okanagan Division playoff race. They struggled down the stretch to find their footing in a race that saw them, the Posse, and the Osoyoos Coyotes all in a fight for the final two playoff spots. They do, however, hold a 3-2 advantage in the season series with the Steam, who are 2-2-0-1 in five contests so far.

Puck drop will be 7:30pm on Friday night at the Summerland Arena, and will be the final regular season home game for 20-year olds Dawson Jenner and Jared Breitkreuz, both Summerland natives.

The Steam will wrap their regular season in Osoyoos on Saturday night before hosting their annual Awards Ceremony on Sunday at the Summerland Youth Centre. The event will be from 2:00pm to 5:00pm and is free to attend. Fans, volunteers, billet families, staff and parents are invited to join in celebrating the award winners prior to the playoffs starting on Tuesday, February 26th at the Summerland Arena.

2018_19 summerland steam awards banquet (1)

 

OFFENSE FALLS SILENT AS STEAM SPUTTER TO FOURTH STRAIGHT LOSS

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Photo: Chris Swan

February 11, 2019

Summerland, BC – There haven’t been many four game losing streaks in recent memory for the Summerland Steam franchise, but they find themselves in the midst of one right now. As the dog days of the KIJHL season take place here in late January and early February, the Steam have looked like a team with not much to play for in recent games. They can’t catch the 1st place Kelowna Chiefs, they can’t be caught by the team in 3rd place and they know they’ll start their playoff schedule on Tuesday, February 26th at the Summerland Arena.

Unfortunately, the dog days of the season come at a time where practice time is at a premium for the Steam, who played a midweek game last week against Kelowna before hitting the road this past weekend to Sicamous and Revelstoke. With the closure of Highway 97 between Summerland and Peachland they were forced to go the long way, making a tough trip even longer against a pair of teams primed to occupy two of the four playoff spots in the Doug Birks Division.

After a 7-0 defeat at the hands of the Kelowna Chiefs Tuesday, the Steam were trying to get back on track in Sicamous on Friday night against an Eagles team that had won two in a row. The two goaltenders, Eric Scherger for Summerland and Cole Steinke for Sicamous, were named game stars in a contest that saw both teams go 0-for-6 on the power play. The only goal was scored by Sicamous’ Trysten Brookman, who scored his 7th goal of the season with 6:59 to play in the third period. Brookman was able to jump around a Summerland defender and tuck a pretty backhand up over the shoulder of Scherger on the short side to give Sicamous the advantage. They wouldn’t relinquish, winning a 1-0 game that was much more entertaining than the scoreline would indicate.

The next night spelled much of the same for the Summerland offense, another zero, as they were blanked in Revelstoke 5-0 at the hands of the Birks leading Grizzlies. Tommy Bodtker was the star of the show for the Grizzlies, factoring in on all five Revelstoke goals with an assist on each. The Steam had a good first period, and were (in my mind) unlucky to be down 1-0 after three ‘Grade A’ scoring chances in the period.

Kaeden Patrick scored twice for the Grizzlies on this night, while Carter Anderson, Brendan Vulcano and Rider McCallum also tallied. Liam McGarva made 22 saves for the shutout, and Revelstoke went 1-for-8 on the power play. Although they only scored once, the Grizzlies controlled the offensive zone with their power play, particularly in the second period. They had four of their eight chances in the middle frame and used the momentum created to control pace for the remainder of the night and convert on their opportunities.

With the pair of shutout losses, combined with a 7-0 kicking from the Kelowna Chiefs last Tuesday on home ice, the Steam find themselves looking for answers on offense as the regular season winds down. In the midst of one of their busiest stretches of the season (they’ll have played five games in ten days), the offense has gone quiet. They’ve scored more than twice in a game just four times in 12 starts since January 1st, and will need to look to some secondary scoring to get the job done if their playoff run figures to be more than just a few games.

With practice time limited, they’ll have to do so on the fly as they play another midweek game this Wednesday in Osoyoos. The Coyotes are coming off a win over the Sicamous Eagles on Saturday night that vaulted them back into third in the Okanagan Division with just five games remaining. The Princeton Posse, who sat and watched last weekend with a rare weekend off, sit fourth while the North Okanagan Knights have lost four straight while in the hunt and sit in fifth.

The Coyotes and the Steam have a longstanding rivalry that’s boiled over at points this season, as the two teams are the most penalized teams in the league as far as total minutes are concerned. While there’s been a plethora of youth injected into the Summerland-Osoyoos rivalry this season, the tensions have never died down. With the two potentially set to see each other in the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons, it’ll be interesting to watch the final two meetings of the regular season and see how they play out. Both will happen in Osoyoos, this Wednesday as well as the final game of the regular season on February 23rd.

Summerland’s offense led by Cody Swan, the Gove brothers, and Cory Loring will have to come alive if they want to beat Daniel Paul, one of the Coyotes biggest contributors this season. He’s one of the biggest reasons the Coyotes are in a fight for the playoff spot as he’s been leaned on heavily to not only provide quality goaltending but also mentor the young Coyotes and help them to adapt to life in the KIJHL. Brandon Della-Paolera and Peter Michailides, along with Brock Marple have also been bright spots for the ‘Yotes, coming together to form Osoyoos’ top line and most dangerous offensive combination to date.

Through the four games between the two teams this season Summerland has three wins and a tie while outscoring the Coyotes 17-4 in the process. With their offensive woes mounting as the stretch drive winds down, surely they’re hoping that this is just what the doctor ordered as they look to turn things around.

Opening puck drop on Wednesday will be 7:35pm at the Sun Bowl Arena in Osoyoos, and can be seen on playfullscreen.com with Tom Shields and Damien Hannah.

 

STEAM STUMBLE IN LOSS TO POSSE

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File Photo: Chris Swan

February 4, 2019

Summerland, BC – The Summerland Steam traveled to Princeton this past Saturday night in search of a win, but it wasn’t going to be just any other win. They needed to take care of business to ensure themselves home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, as well as secure the 200th Regular Season victory for Head Coach John DePourcq.

It turns out with the Osoyoos Coyotes falling to the Revelstoke Grizzlies on Friday night the outcome of Summerland’s Saturday contest didn’t matter. The Steam will finish second in the Okanagan Division Standings and have home ice advantage when the KIJHL Playoffs open up on February 26th. That fact, however, didn’t change the way the coaching staff was hoping the Steam would play against a potential first round opponent, the Princeton Posse, on Saturday night.

Princeton came in as the third place team in the Okanagan Division after a 4-2 victory over Kamloops on Friday night, and they did a good job early on in limiting Summerland’s time and space. Those two things are usually at a premium at the Princeton & District Arena at the best of times, but Princeton was able to neutralize Summerland’s speed and keep to the outside in the offensive zone. Both teams looked to gain the upper hand early, firing shots from the perimeter at both Jared Breitkreuz (Summerland) and Jaysen MacLean (Princeton) in goal at each end of the ice.

The only goal of the period came off the stick of Cory Loring, his career high 16th of the season, making a perfect shot to beat MacLean over the glove and under the bar. The goal gave Summerland a 1-0 lead headed to the locker room, something that they maybe felt they ‘got away with’ out of a first period that saw the bus legs shake out slightly as the frame got older.

The Posse were able to tie the score at one apiece early in the second period when Achille Casali scored his 16th of the season. He was able to slash to the front of the net and get a tip on a long point shot from Devin Watson at the left point, beating Breitkreuz to the glove side. Justin Fodchuk would draw the second assist on the goal that put the teams all square.

Sean Wilson would then break the tie late in the second period on a bit of a strange goal that netted him his second of the season. A long shot from Bevis Chou at Summerland’s right point hit Wilson before a Posse defender made a swipe at the puck with a skate. He made contact, but popped the puck up instead of kicking it away, and it fluttered over MacLean and across the line to give Summerland a 2-1 lead. They would again take the one goal lead to the locker room, but see the Posse come out flying early in the third looking to tie the game.

The Steam would stem the tide, bending but not breaking in the first half of the third period. They held the 2-1 lead until Ethan Schmor was able to find some open space and tie the game with 6:54 to play. The Posse did great work to move the puck through the neutral zone and sent Schmor in alone on Breitkreuz. He made no mistake, faking the backhand before going to the forehand to beat the Summerland keeper for his 9th of the season that tied the game at 2.

As the clock wound down the Steam looked to be engaged, having several chances at the Princeton goal. They couldn’t beat Jaysen MacLean, but found themselves on a power play with 3:37 to play. They didn’t capitalize on that either, and in fact took themselves off the power play after just :39 seconds.

At 4-on-4, the Posse found a way to break through. After Summerland failed to clear the zone, defenseman Noah Brusse found himself coming out of the right wing corner with the puck. He swung behind the Summerland goal, placing a puck on the tape of the Posse’s leading goal scorer, Terrance Josephson, alone in the slot. Josephson converted the one-timer for his 14th of the season and gave the Posse their first lead of the hockey game with 1:55 to play.

The Steam would get themselves another power play, but couldn’t convert on that either and took a 3-2 loss. It wasn’t a banner night for them, as they seemed to be hampered by the combination of small ice and a rock solid goaltending performance. Jaysen MacLean made 33 saves for the Posse, while Jared Breitkreuz was no slouch either stopping 28 of 31 Princeton shots in the Summerland goal crease.

 

What’s next? 

The Steam will have to turn around quickly, hosting the province leading Kelowna Chiefs on Tuesday night before hitting the road for a pair of games next weekend in Sicamous and Revelstoke. The Chiefs come in with a 37-2-1-2 record through 42 games, with their only two losses in regulation coming at the hands of the Summerland Steam in Rutland on December 1st and January 11th.

With the division locked up long ago, the Chiefs have eyes on the Conference and League titles, being chased by Revelstoke for the Okanagan Shuswap Conference Championship in addition to the Kimberley Dynamiters in pursuit of a league title. The Chiefs currently lead the race by a point over the 37-4-1-1 Dynamiters. The Nitros have played one more game, while the Revelstoke Grizzlies also lurk just 3 points behind with a 37-5-0-0 record and 74 points.

The Chiefs are very obviously led by Brody Dale, and they go as he does. He’s only been held off the score sheet twice all year in his 38 games (Sept 14 @ Osoyoos, Dec 1 vs Summerland), and is on pace to score more than 3.0 points per game this year. With 105 points he’s clear in the race for the scoring title, with the next guy on the list being teammate and linemate Zach Erhardt 21 points behind with 84. The third member of that line, Devin Sutton, hasn’t played a game since December 28th against Spokane at the KIJHL Showcase, and his return date is unknown. He has a *mere* (rolls eyes) 21 goals and 57 points in 29 games for the Chiefs this season.

The Chiefs are deep up front with talent that includes Ryan Stack, Lane Paddison, Liam Drager and others that can make a team pay if not air tight defensively. Summerland did that in the two teams previous two meetings, both Summerland victories, and will need to be that good again. This time, however, they’ll have to do it without their captain, Everett Scherger, who remains ineligible until February 23rd due to suspension. The Steam will need to force pucks deep in Kelowna territory, get to their defense with a good aggressive forecheck, and find a way to beat either Braeden Mitchell or Shane Zilka in the Chiefs net.

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As you can see in stats posted above, both have been stellar this season for Head Coach Ken Law and the Chiefs. Zilka is yet to lose, and has started four of the last five for the Chiefs as they go down the stretch. Both will likely be in the conversation for the goaltender of the year award for the Okanagan Division, along with (in my opinion) Daniel Paul of the Osoyoos Coyotes and Jaysen MacLean of the Princeton Posse.

As for Summerland, they have three players who received ‘Honourable Mentions’ in the Player of the Month nominations for January. Cody Swan (1g, 13a in 7gp), Mitchell Gove (7g, 5a in 7gp) and goaltender Eric Scherger (3-2, 2.60 GAA, .935%) were all named as Honourable Mentions, while Darian Long (8g, 9a) took home POM honours for the Okanagan Shuswap Conference. All will likely be in the lineup for the Steam Tuesday night, and counted on heavily to help beat a loaded Kelowna squad looking to run away with the league title.

It’s sure to be a barn burner of a mid-week game, with the opening faceoff going at 7:30pm from the Summerland Arena. Joel and I will have pre-game on the playfullscreen.com broadcast starting at 7:15pm.