Steam Split Weekend, Collect 4 Points Anyway

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Photo: Chris Swan

November 14, 2019

Summerland, BC – The Summerland Steam are happy to be coming home with four points from their recent trip to the Kootenays. They left on Friday hoping for exactly that as they rolled through Golden and Columbia Valley to complete their Eddie Mountain Division match-ups for the regular season. After their run through Fernie, Kimberley and Creston in late October that produced one of a possible six points, it was important for the Steam to try to get back on track during their last two stops.

In Golden on Friday night, Lane French scored the lone goal for the Steam in a game they quite frankly deserved to win for their efforts. French’s goal, his 7th of the season, came shorthanded in the first period to tie the game at 1. Unfortunately, the Golden Rockets were able to score two more over the final two periods and pick up a 3-1 victory.

The victory lasted mere minutes for the Rockets, however, as they were flagged for using an ineligible player during the game and were forced by the KIJHL to forfeit the two points to the Summerland Steam. They attempted to card the player in question once the game was over, and it was flagged and reported promptly.

Hockey Canada Registry concerns are far too common, and seem to happen a few times every year across the KIJHL. Over the last four seasons there have been plenty of times where teams were forced to forfeit points, including the Kelowna Chiefs, Nelson Leafs, and many others. Just a couple of weeks ago the North Okanagan Knights were forced to forfeit points from four wins due to the same issue. The Knights case was a severe one, as it parachuted them from a first place tie into a third place tie in the Bill Olhausen Division Standings, giving away eight total points.

The onus is on the league’s GM’s and Team Executives to ensure these things are taken care of, and the league and BC Hockey have a history of ruling with a bit of an iron fist on the issue. Appeals have been denied several times from GM’s trying to plead their case, as was the case with North Okanagan earlier this season. There was no dispute in the case on Friday night, and the Summerland Steam picked up two points despite a 3-1 loss to the Golden Rockets.

On Saturday they were headed to Invermere, making their first stop at the Eddie Mountain Arena since 2014. Their last visit required overtime, and a game winner from Riley Pettitt to pick up a 4-3 win in what was the ‘getaway game’ of that road trip 5 years ago.

This game wasn’t much different. It was also a ‘getaway game’, and also required overtime heroics. Ty Banser got the scoring started with his third of the season early in the first period. He found his way over the blue line, and attempted a pass to a net-driving Zack Cooper. Cooper was tied up by a pair of Rockies defenseman, allowing Banser into the slot unchecked. He picked up his own pass off a carom, and slid a backhander past Rockies’ goaltender Bretton Park to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

 

Ryan Allen would then check-in with his first of the season, getting a long shot through and past Park to extend the lead to two. Austin O’Neill and newcomer Slade Desharnais would draw assists on Allen’s goal, and the Steam found themselves in the driver’s seat up 2-0.

Alex Novakowsky would get the Rockies on the board in the second period, streaking down the right wing and beating Eric Scherger high over the glove. It was the only goal of the second period and brought the Rockies to within a goal headed to the third period.

Summerland did a good job, despite only being up a goal, to dictate pace and use their forecheck to their advantage. They finished with 31 shots on the night, but likely had more than 50 attempts at goal including blocks and shots that missed the target. They looked to be in total control and cruising through most of the third frame, but the Rockies were able to manufacture a goal late in the game against the run of play to tie the game at 2.

Jonathan Milligan tied the game with 3:19 to play, finding a loose puck in the slot and beating Scherger with a nicely placed backhand into the top corner. For the second consecutive meeting at the Eddie Mountain Arena, overtime was necessary to decide a winner as neither  team broke the tie in the final 3:19.

Again it was the Summerland Steam coming out on top, thanks to a Tyson Conroy game winner :27 into overtime to seal the victory.

As the Rockies broke down the ice with the puck, it looked like they would have a great chance to end it. If not for the stick of Zack Cooper they might have, as a Rockies player stood all alone in front of the net waiting for a pass from the corner. As it came, Cooper seemed to appear out of nowhere for the Steam, lifting the stick of the Rockies player and allowing the puck to slide on by. This freed up the puck for Tyson Conroy, who broke out of the Summerland zone 2-on-1 with Ty Banser. A nice give-and-go between Conroy and Banser left a wide open cage for Conroy, who tucked the puck behind Bretton Park to give the Steam the victory.

 

With the win and the forfeited points awarded from Friday night, the Steam came home with four points on the standings board. A much needed ‘weekend sweep’, if you will, for a team that struggled through the month of October with injuries and a heavy schedule. With a 4-5-0-2 record through the month of October, they managed to stay afloat while enduring injuries to many of their top players. Mitch Gove, Austin O’Neill, Ante Mustapic and Ty Banser all missed significant time in October, while Jordon Woytas missed the whole month recovering from a lower body injury sustained in just the second game of the KIJHL season. Both he and Mitch Gove remain out with injury, and are expected back sometime in December.

While they’ll wait a while longer to finally ice the roster that GM Steve Hogg and Head Coach Ken Karpuk intended at the start of the season, the play on the ice has certainly been better than their record shows since the beginning of October. Particularly since the calendar flipped to December, the Steam have found themselves working hard and staying in close games while having played the most games in the league to date at 21.

In the four games so far in November, many would tell you they feel the Steam have played well enough to win all four. They certainly deserve more than just the one win they’ve gotten in four games (counting the game in Golden as a 3-1 defeat), and they’ll be looking to turn it around this coming weekend.

Unfortunately, they’ve got another hellish road trip on their hands. For the second time in three weekends, they’ll travel to 100 Mile House to play the Wranglers on Friday night. They’ll bus 5-hours up to play a game and bus 5-hours back, only to turn around and host the Kamloops Storm on home ice on Saturday night. Two weeks ago when they made this trip, they arrived back at the Summerland Arena sometime around 3:30AM on Saturday morning, and had to be ready to play 16 hours later for a 7:30pm start.

That will be the same this weekend, as they bus up to face a Wranglers’ team that beat them by a 4-2 count two weeks ago. The Wranglers, the Cyclone Taylor Cup Hosts for 2020, have had an up and down season much like Summerland has to date. For Head Coach and GM Dale Hladun it’s been a season of tinkering, trying to find the right mix of players that’ll be ready come playoff time to run them all the way to the Championship tournament. At 9-9-1-0, the Wranglers sit third in the Doug Birks Division behind the Revelstoke Grizzlies and Chase Heat, who sit first and second respectively. Much like the Summerland Steam, the Wranglers sit in the middle of the pack as far as goals for and against, differential, and special teams.

It will be a good test for the Steam, who will go back to the South Cariboo looking for a little retribution. They’ll return home to face the Kamloops Storm on Saturday night. The first meeting of the season between the Steam and the Storm goes at 7:30pm at the Summerland Arena. If you can’t be in person to cheer them on, be sure to join the webcast at playfullscreen.com, the Official Broadcast Partner of the KIJHL.201911092022331

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