STEAM FINISH POSSE, SET UP OKANAGAN DIVISION CLASH OF TITANS

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Photo: Steve Dunsmoor | Dunsmoor Creative

March 6, 2019

Summerland, BC – For the fifth year in a row, the Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs will do battle in the postseason. Both teams booked their date with one another via a first round playoff win, with the Chiefs dispatching the Osoyoos Coyotes in four straight and the Steam taking down the Princeton Posse in five games.

The Steam needed one extra game, and with many of Kelowna’s coaching and front office staff in attendance at the Summerland Arena on Monday night, they showed a glimpse of their best in a 4-2 victory over the Posse in Game 5.

Mitch Gove (6,7) scored a pair of goals, bringing his total to seven in the first round. He leads the KIJHL Playoffs in goals through the first round of play. Former Princeton Posse captain Lane French (2) would score the winner in the second period, while Ty Banser  (2) scored the other.

Eric Scherger, who came on in relief in Game 1 and started Games 2, 3 and 4, was sidelined for Game 5. Jared Breitkreuz got the nod in goal and was very good, only allowing a pair of Posse power play goals. He put the exclamation point on the series with just under four minutes to play, making a ferocious glove save to bail his teammates out of a truly terrible defensive zone turnover.

After five games the Steam move on, and they managed to score 25 times in those five games. Here’s every goal, for and against, in the five game series with Princeton.

 

The Steam outscored the Posse 25-12 in the series, however, it didn’t always look so positive for them. After losing in overtime by a 7-6 score in Game 1, they arrived for Game 2 and promptly let the Posse take a 2-0 lead. They fought to get one back, but headed to the third period down a goal. Early in the third period, Princeton’s Colby Rhodes found himself with a breakaway. If Steam goaltender Eric Scherger doesn’t make this save, it’s a 3-1 Posse lead, and that might have been a backbreaker for Summerland. Scherger, however, came up huge when his team needed him most, and his forwards would reward him with five third period goals and a 6-2 victory to tie the series at 1.

This was NO DOUBT the turning point in the series, as the Steam would come back to win that game plus three more in a row to send the Posse to locker clean out day early. They got better as the series went on, and finally put three solid periods together for the first time in Game 5, just in time to face their fiercest rival in Round 2.

The Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs are more than well acquainted with one another. 2018/19 will be the fifth straight year the teams have met in the postseason, and including regular season match-ups Game 1 on Friday night will be playoff meeting #28 and overall match-up #66 during that time span. That’s a lot of hockey played between two teams and familiarity seems to breed contempt, so the two teams and their fan bases should be in for a fun ride over the next ten or so days.  All four previous playoff series’ have been competitive and borderline mean, and there’s no reason to believe this one will be any different. No series involving the two teams has gone any less than six games, with three of the four needing a Game 7 to declare a winner.

This season has been a little different than past. Historically the Steam and the Chiefs have finished in the 2vs3 matchup in the Okanagan Division Playoffs, and have generally been pretty evenly matched throughout. This season though, the Steam come in as the severe underdog. Yes, they finished second in the division while the Chiefs took the crown, but the Chiefs finished with just three regulation losses. Anyone who comes up against the Chiefs in the playoffs, save for maybe the Revelstoke Grizzlies, will be considered a major underdog. Summerland’s equalizer is that they’ve proven they know how to beat the Chiefs. They were responsible for two of Kelowna’s three regulation losses this season, and did so inside the not so friendly environment at Rutland Arena.

The bottom line is that this Chiefs team is GOOD. Very good. Quite possibly the best Junior B hockey team in Western Canada, and it’s going to be a tall task for the Summerland Steam to beat them more times in seven games than anybody did (in regulation) all season.

If the Steam want to be successful in this series they’ll need buy in from every single player on the roster. Not just on offense, and not just on defense, but in every zone on every shift. The minute teams get lazy and take shifts off is the minute the Chiefs offense will pounce. Kelowna’s offense remains one of the most impressive ever assembled, and they LOVE to score goals.

Brody Dale (123) and Zach Erhardt (101) both eclipsed the 100 point plateau, and four other Chiefs (Lane Paddison, Ryan Stack, Dylan Kent, and Devin Sutton) all sat in the top-12 in regular season scoring. Dale and Erhardt are the first to break 100 points in over six seasons in the KIJHL, and are complimented by high caliber teammates that make life difficult for opposing teams. The Chiefs offense led the league with 276 goals for (110 more than Summerland), but that’s not where they stop. They also gave up the third least goals against this season, with just 111 pucks getting past the tandem of Braeden Mitchell and Shane Zilka. Top to bottom they’re talented, and no matter who opposes them they’ll be the favourite on the road to the Cyclone Taylor Cup in Campbell River, BC in April.

Having said this, as good as the Chiefs are, the Steam have found a way to keep them quiet a couple of times this season. They were able to pick up a 7-2 win on December 1st and a 4-3 victory on January 12th, both at Rutland Arena, and will need to find that recipe again if they’re going to make this series a long one. That recipe includes finding the line of competitive physicality. That means getting in on the forecheck and getting physical in the corners without taking penalties. It’s winning puck battles and making sure there’s support on the ‘D’ side when the battle isn’t won. It’s also about finding second chance opportunities in front of the Chiefs’ net, knowing both of their goaltenders will likely make the first save.

All of that has to go right, and the visitor’s penalty box needs to remain empty if they’re going to have any success against a potent Chiefs team that can run up a score in a serious hurry. The video has been watched, the drills have been run, and it’s time to get ready for Round 2.

Game 1 goes Friday night at Rutland Arena for a 7:00pm puck drop. If you can’t make the drive, join my broadcast colleague, Justin McCartney, for one of the best broadcasts in the league on playfullscreen.com.

Schedule:

VS (1)

Joel and I will be back on air Monday, March 11th at 7:15pm for the Coastal Eye Clinic Pre-Game Show ahead of a 7:30 puck drop for Game 3 of the Okanagan Division Final.

 

 

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