Summerland, BC – After finishing up their regular season schedule this past weekend, the Summerland Steam are ready and looking forward to the 2020 KIJHL Playoffs. While their results were mixed during their final weekend of regular season play, the way they handled themselves proved they are playoff ready. On Friday night, the Steam played their final home game of the season, finishing in a 2-2 tie with the Kelowna Chiefs in what was surely the game of the year.
Despite the game meaning nothing in the standings, the Steam and the Chiefs combined for 92 shots over 70 minutes of play. Summerland allowed the first goal just 1:04 into the game off the stick of Kelowna’s Porter Dawson.
After that, the Steam took over. They’d only score twice on Kelowna goaltender Michael Toole, one in the first period from Mitchell Gove and the other in the second from Lane French, as they pounded the Kelowna goal with shots. They recorded 50 in total, and the young Kelowna goaltender was nothing short of spectacular.
In the third period the Chiefs would push, and they finally broke through to tie the game with 1:40 to go courtesy of Blaine Worthing. Eric Scherger was stellar in his own right to match Michael Toole, and worthing beat him with a great shot from down the left wing to force the tie.
Overtime would solve nothing, largely in part to the two goaltenders making a couple of incredible saves at each end to keep the game tied at 2. Summerland had control for most of the game, and outshot the division champion Chiefs by a 50-42 margin.
They took their point and headed to the Similkameen Valley on Saturday, where they were met by the Princeton Posse and delays for the second straight meeting. On February 1st they arrived at the Princeton & District Arena to a rink without power, which didn’t return until 6:30 and caused a delay to a game they ended up winning 6-3.
This past Saturday, the arrived to a rink with power, which promptly went out at 6:30, causing a delay of almost an hour to the start time. Both teams started a little flat, but it was the Posse who gained the advantage with a goal early in the game from Jake McCulley. Ty Banser would even the score before the end of the period as the teams headed to the break tied at a goal each.
The Posse would gain advantage again early in the second period as Josh Olson would score to put them up 2-1 less than two minutes into the second period. Despite back and forth action, it would take the Steam nearly the entire period to tie the game. They did so once again with :37 on the clock as former Posse forward Austin O’Neil would collect a rebound and beat Jaysen MacLean to tie the game at 2. The lead, however, would last only 19 seconds before Trent Crisp found himself a rebound and beat Darby Tipton with :18 to play in the period.
The Posse would take a 3-2 lead to the second intermission, and they’d build on it in the third. A pair of power play goals from Noah Brusse and Azam Jiwa sealed the deal for the Posse, as they took a 5-2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Jordon Woytas would score for the Steam in the dying seconds to make the final a 5-3 Princeton victory.
It was a game that was extremely entertaining, despite the delay, and served as a good preview of what these two teams are capable of come next Friday when the KIJHL Playoffs begin. There’s a little love, a little hate, and a whole lot of respect it seems between the two teams, which will make for a good playoff series for the second year in a row. Last season it was Summerland with the home ice advantage, and this year it will be Princeton who holds the advantage card to start with.
The teams split the season series, each collecting three wins and one in the other’s arena. They were also near even in the goals department through the six games, with Summerland scoring 22 times and Princeton scoring 24. The key is going to be, as it seems to be more often than not, the Princeton & District Arena. A small ice surface with an even smaller neutral zone, partnered with high, square corners makes it a really challenging place to play. The Posse know how to play there, and the Steam should now have an idea of what it takes to win in the little ice box. Space is confined, but they have the talent to make plays and will have to find a way to do so.
Summerland may be getting ready to peak at the right time. With only Ethan Grover sidelined due to a lower body injury, it’s as close as the Steam will get to icing their full lineup. They were able to finish the season with a 22-22-1-4 record despite losing more than 150 man games to injury, and with just one body on the shelf are now as healthy as they’ve been since September. They’ll have a chance to work on line combinations and special teams units all week in practice, and figure out how to beat a Posse team that skated to their best finish in nearly a decade.
Princeton’s last finish better than third was in 2012/13 when they came three points shy of winning division and conference championships with 34 wins. At 27-16-1-5, the Posse finished second in the Bill Ohlhausen Division and fourth in the ten team Okanagan Shuswap Conference in 2019/20. Summerland, meanwhile, finishes third in the division with their 22-22-1-4 record and sixth in the conference.
The playoff schedule is ironed out, and will start Friday, February 28th at the Princeton & District Arena. The full schedule is as follows:
Game 1: Friday, February 28th, 2020 @ Princeton
Game 2: Saturday, February 29th, 2020 @ Princeton
Game 3: Monday, March 2nd, 2020 @ Summerland
Game 4: Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 @ Summerland
Game 5*: Thursday, March 5th, 2020 @ Princeton
Game 6*: Friday, March 6th, 2020 @ Summerland
Game 7*: Saturday, March 7th, 2020 @ Princeton