March 13, 2019
Summerland, BC – Things change fast in the KIJHL Playoffs. There are so many games in such a short period of time that a team can go from an extreme high, back to reality, and through to the lowest of lows in the matter of just a few days. That’s the case for the Summerland Steam, who opened the Okanagan Division Final against the Kelowna Chiefs last Friday looking to do the unthinkable.
The Chiefs, who lost just three times in regulation and five times overall, were perhaps not expected to lose at all during the playoffs. They certainly weren’t expected to lose four times in seven games, but Summerland went into Rutland Arena looking to play the role of David to Kelowna’s proverbial Goliath. They were the only team to beat the Chiefs more than once this season, and were responsible for two of the three regulation losses suffered by the KIJHL Regular Season Champions.
They stormed into Rutland Arena for Game 1 and played a heavy, physical game that kept the Chiefs in check and saw them walk out with a 2-1 victory. Lane French and Cody Swan each scored for the Steam, while Jared Breitkreuz made 43 saves and was sensational in the victory. It wasn’t until Kayson Gallant scored a 6-on-4 power play goal in the final minute that the Chiefs were within one.
The Steam played the same way in Game 2, but found themselves on the wrong side of defeat to the tune of a 5-3 Kelowna victory to even the series at a game apiece. Breitkreuz was again very good, but couldn’t hold off the Chiefs special teams as Summerland found themselves in some penalty trouble. Devin Sutton scored the winner for the Chiefs, as they would even the series heading back to Summerland for Games three and four.
As good as the Steam were in Rutland during the first two games the Chiefs came to Summerland with purpose, and started the Game Three onslaught in the first minute. Juanre Naude would open the scoring for the visitors, and Ryan Stack would add shortly after. The Chiefs would lead 4-0 lead after a period, and eventually pick up a 7-1 victory in a game that saw Summerland lose control of themselves and the series. They let the Chiefs power play run rampant and go 4-for-7, while also giving up a shorthanded goal for the second game in a row.
The Steam were not great on Monday night in Game 3, but they got better as the game went on. Lane French scored the only goal for the Steam while Breitkreuz took the loss in goal without much support from his teammates.
Things went from bad to worse for Summerland on Tuesday in Game 4, as they lost Okanagan Division Rookie of the Year and arguably their Playoff MVP Mitch Gove just sixteen seconds into the contest. Gove got tied up right off the opening draw with Chiefs defenseman Isaac Dutka, and both went to the ice. Dutka got up and skated off, but as Gove attempted to do the same he couldn’t. He was helped to the dressing room and eventually taken by paramedics to hospital with a leg injury that will sideline him indefinitely.
Without their top line right winger, Summerland did well to stay with the Chiefs early in Game 4. They got pucks deep, worked their forecheck well, and had a couple of chances early in the game to open the scoring. Unfortunately they couldn’t beat Braeden Mitchell in the Chiefs net, and Brody Dale would open the scoring at the other end on a pretty passing play late in the frame.
The goal seemed to slightly deflate the Steam, but they came again in the second period with the heavy forecheck and physical play in an attempt to generate chances. Nothing came close and the Chiefs were able to add to their lead, courtesy of defenceman Jordan Lowry, halfway through the second period. The “back breaker” in Game 4 for the Steam came late in the second period, a power play goal from Chiefs captain Tyler Love to put the Chiefs up 3-0 with 2:55 to go.
From there, all air seemed to come out of both the Steam and the Summerland Arena. The third period was very ho-hum, and the Chiefs would add a pair of late goals from Lane Paddison and Devin Sutton to inflate the score to 5-0. That’s how the game would finish, with Mitchell stopping 29 for his second shutout of the playoffs and giving the Chiefs a 3-1 stranglehold on the series.
In a nutshell, the Steam were not good enough in their pair of home games this past week. They struggled in their own zone and didn’t apply enough forward pressure to sustain a forecheck for the majority of either game. They also didn’t generate nearly enough scoring chances, which is a product of allowing the Chiefs to exit the zone too easily and come through the neutral zone with speed and numbers.
The set will now shift back to Rutland Arena for Game 5 on Thursday, and if Summerland wants to prolong this series they’re going to have to get back to exactly what they did in Game 1. They’re now up against the wall battling both the best team in the KIJHL and the injury bug, and will need their best and most concentrated effort of the season in Rutland on Thursday night for Game 5.
The bonus is they know how to win in Rutland. They’ve done it three times this year, and they’ll have to make it four if they want to force Game 6 Friday night at the Summerland Arena.
Puck drop for Game 5 goes at 7:00pm at Rutland Arena on Thursday so make the drive, or join Justin McCartney for the webcast on playfullscreen.com.