Steam Ready For Leafs, Nitehawks as Calendar Flips

IMG-3937.JPGAs the calendar (and the weather, sigh) flip to fall and the month of October, the Summerland Steam find themselves in a familiar spot. After a 4-3 victory over the Osoyoos Coyotes last weekend to finish up their month of September, they sit in a playoff spot and have a lot to look forward to.

Last Friday night at home to the Coyotes, the Steam built a 3-0 lead on goals from Mitch Gove (3, PP), Morey Babakaiff (4, PP) and Tyson Conroy (1). They faced a little adversity late in the game as they watched the Coyotes storm back with three straight goals in the back half of  the third period to tie the game at 3. A shorthanded goal from Brendan Moseley and a power play tally from Seth Kriese set the stage for the Coyotes comeback, which was completed in the final minute of the third period. The goal came from Coyotes Forward Ryan Bester, who was able to locate a puck in the scrum and beat Steam goalie Darby Tipton with just :28 on the clock. It looked at that point like the Coyotes were going to record their first point of the season and force overtime at the Summerland Arena.

With :13 seconds on the clock and the faceoff outside Summerland territory, Mitch Gove had other ideas.

Off a won draw by the Steam, the puck was sent out to the left side to Lane French. French made a beautiful little chip pass through into an area for Gove to skate onto. He undercut his defender and picked up the puck, finding himself one-on-one with Coyotes goaltender Logan Jorginson. Gove, with that same defender on his back, was able to make a move to his forehand and lift the puck over a sprawling Jorginson with :06 on the clock to give Summerland a 4-3 lead. The score would hold with one more drop of the puck, and Summerland would win the game 4-3.

They closed out the month of September with a 4-2 win loss record in six regular season contests, having played five of those six games at home. They’ve only made one road trip thus far, an 8-2 win at the Sun Bowl in Osoyoos on September 25th. They finish the month at the top of the Okanagan Shuswap Conference in Goals For (27), while having the best power play in the entire KIJHL (9/28; 32.14%) through one month of play.

They’ll look to build a good October with a strong first weekend at home before spending the majority of the month on the road. They’ll entertain the Nelson Leafs this coming Friday, and the Beaver Valley Nitehawks Sunday at 2:00pm at the Summerland Arena.

A perennial Neil Murdoch Divison powerhouse, the Leafs are off to an uncharacteristically slow start in 2019/20. They’ll arrive in Summerland on Friday night having traveled from the Kootenays for the second straight weekend, still searching for their first victory of the season. It’s their worst start to a season since a 2-6 month of September to begin the 2010/2011 season, and they’ve been making roster moves like demons to try and add the right pieces to get them on track.

On Friday, expect to see a new goaltender in net for the Leafs. They acquired goaltender Anderson Violette from the Saanich Braves of the VIJHL last week before trading 20-year old netminder Curt Doyle to the Osoyoos Coyotes in exchange for Defenseman Adam Diotte. Diotte, a 2nd year member of the rebuilding Coyotes, was thought to be a corner piece to the Coyotes defense core along with Tynan Peacock, so they must feel that youngster Logan Jorginson needs a little help to keep pucks out of the Coyotes goal. The Leafs get a steady defenseman who can help immediately, skates well and makes a good first pass out of the zone.

Doyle, a native of Nelson, BC, appeared in six games for the Leafs this season, collecting a 3.19 GAA and .898% Save Percentage before being dealt. He’s a veteran of 69 career KIJHL Regular Season games between Beaver Valley, Castlegar and Nelson.

The trade of Doyle for Diotte came at the end of a busy week previous for Nelson’s coaching staff and management, adding Ryan Nielsen-Webb from Columbia Valley, trading the playing rights of forward Ryan Piva to 100 Mile House, and of course adding Violette to the fold as well.

The Leafs weren’t done with just those transactions, however, as they’ve also added Shawn Campbell back to their roster ahead of this weekend’s games. Campbell recorded 20 goals and 39 points in 36 games for the Leafs in 2018/19, and should help Nelson grow what is currently the league’s lowest goal total of 13 through six games.

Seven of their 13 tallies have come via their power play, so the simple key for the Summerland Steam will be to stay out of the penalty box. In their six September games, the Steam were shorthanded 44 times, just over seven times per game on average, and were able to kill over 84% successfully. If one trend continues, the other will have to as well if they want to be successful.

Beaver Valley, meanwhile, will come in on Sunday at the end of a three game weekend. They’ll play Princeton on Friday night and the North Okanagan Knights Saturday before arriving in Summerland on Sunday. The Nitehawks have started the year with three wins, a loss and a pair of overtime defeats, and look to be a force once again in the Neil Murdoch Division. They compete hard and never take a shift off, which has become something of a staple of longtime Head Coach Terry Jones. Jones, who recorded his 1000th KIJHL coaching win during the 2018/19 season, is always able to get the best out of his personnel, and they’re sure to be a tough test on Sunday afternoon.

Summerland comes into the weekend and the month of October looking to continue to build. It wasn’t their best month of September by any stretch, but there were lots of good things proven that if carried over will give them an edge. Their power play is the best in the KIJHL to date, and they’ve scored the most goals in the Conference, all while having one of the youngest defense cores in the league.

Those young defenders will look to continue to acclimate themselves to the speed and physicality of the KIJHL as the Steam play their two home games this weekend. Most of the month of October will be spent on the road, including a 3-game swing through the Eddie Mountain Division in the middle of the month that will push them to their limit.

The month of October begins tonight for the Summerland Steam, as they host Nelson at 7:30pm. Joel and I will have all the action live on starting around 7:15pm!


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