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:
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.