Summerland, BC – There haven’t been many four game losing streaks in recent memory for the Summerland Steam franchise, but they find themselves in the midst of one right now. As the dog days of the KIJHL season take place here in late January and early February, the Steam have looked like a team with not much to play for in recent games. They can’t catch the 1st place Kelowna Chiefs, they can’t be caught by the team in 3rd place and they know they’ll start their playoff schedule on Tuesday, February 26th at the Summerland Arena.
Unfortunately, the dog days of the season come at a time where practice time is at a premium for the Steam, who played a midweek game last week against Kelowna before hitting the road this past weekend to Sicamous and Revelstoke. With the closure of Highway 97 between Summerland and Peachland they were forced to go the long way, making a tough trip even longer against a pair of teams primed to occupy two of the four playoff spots in the Doug Birks Division.
After a 7-0 defeat at the hands of the Kelowna Chiefs Tuesday, the Steam were trying to get back on track in Sicamous on Friday night against an Eagles team that had won two in a row. The two goaltenders, Eric Scherger for Summerland and Cole Steinke for Sicamous, were named game stars in a contest that saw both teams go 0-for-6 on the power play. The only goal was scored by Sicamous’ Trysten Brookman, who scored his 7th goal of the season with 6:59 to play in the third period. Brookman was able to jump around a Summerland defender and tuck a pretty backhand up over the shoulder of Scherger on the short side to give Sicamous the advantage. They wouldn’t relinquish, winning a 1-0 game that was much more entertaining than the scoreline would indicate.
The next night spelled much of the same for the Summerland offense, another zero, as they were blanked in Revelstoke 5-0 at the hands of the Birks leading Grizzlies. Tommy Bodtker was the star of the show for the Grizzlies, factoring in on all five Revelstoke goals with an assist on each. The Steam had a good first period, and were (in my mind) unlucky to be down 1-0 after three ‘Grade A’ scoring chances in the period.
Kaeden Patrick scored twice for the Grizzlies on this night, while Carter Anderson, Brendan Vulcano and Rider McCallum also tallied. Liam McGarva made 22 saves for the shutout, and Revelstoke went 1-for-8 on the power play. Although they only scored once, the Grizzlies controlled the offensive zone with their power play, particularly in the second period. They had four of their eight chances in the middle frame and used the momentum created to control pace for the remainder of the night and convert on their opportunities.
With the pair of shutout losses, combined with a 7-0 kicking from the Kelowna Chiefs last Tuesday on home ice, the Steam find themselves looking for answers on offense as the regular season winds down. In the midst of one of their busiest stretches of the season (they’ll have played five games in ten days), the offense has gone quiet. They’ve scored more than twice in a game just four times in 12 starts since January 1st, and will need to look to some secondary scoring to get the job done if their playoff run figures to be more than just a few games.
With practice time limited, they’ll have to do so on the fly as they play another midweek game this Wednesday in Osoyoos. The Coyotes are coming off a win over the Sicamous Eagles on Saturday night that vaulted them back into third in the Okanagan Division with just five games remaining. The Princeton Posse, who sat and watched last weekend with a rare weekend off, sit fourth while the North Okanagan Knights have lost four straight while in the hunt and sit in fifth.
The Coyotes and the Steam have a longstanding rivalry that’s boiled over at points this season, as the two teams are the most penalized teams in the league as far as total minutes are concerned. While there’s been a plethora of youth injected into the Summerland-Osoyoos rivalry this season, the tensions have never died down. With the two potentially set to see each other in the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons, it’ll be interesting to watch the final two meetings of the regular season and see how they play out. Both will happen in Osoyoos, this Wednesday as well as the final game of the regular season on February 23rd.
Summerland’s offense led by Cody Swan, the Gove brothers, and Cory Loring will have to come alive if they want to beat Daniel Paul, one of the Coyotes biggest contributors this season. He’s one of the biggest reasons the Coyotes are in a fight for the playoff spot as he’s been leaned on heavily to not only provide quality goaltending but also mentor the young Coyotes and help them to adapt to life in the KIJHL. Brandon Della-Paolera and Peter Michailides, along with Brock Marple have also been bright spots for the ‘Yotes, coming together to form Osoyoos’ top line and most dangerous offensive combination to date.
Through the four games between the two teams this season Summerland has three wins and a tie while outscoring the Coyotes 17-4 in the process. With their offensive woes mounting as the stretch drive winds down, surely they’re hoping that this is just what the doctor ordered as they look to turn things around.
Opening puck drop on Wednesday will be 7:35pm at the Sun Bowl Arena in Osoyoos, and can be seen on playfullscreen.com with Tom Shields and Damien Hannah.