Summerland, BC – The Summerland Steam began the 2020 portion of their schedule this past weekend with a new outlook. They’re healthy, they’re rested and they’re ready to make a run to the KIJHL Playoffs beginning in the final week of February.
Their post-holiday schedule began this past weekend with a pair of games against the Osoyoos Coyotes and Chase Heat. The Coyotes came to Summerland on Friday night playing much better hockey of late under a new Head Coach. A wildly entertaining hockey game saw the action go back and forth before Summerland came away with a full-value 4-2 victory.
The Coyotes would open the scoring, taking advantage of a turnover at the Summerland blue line just 1:07 into the hockey game. Dylan Stevenson picked off a clearing pass and found teammate Brendan Moseley in front of the Summerland goal. Moseley showed great patience and knew he had time, dragging the puck around a surprised Darby Tipton for his 12th of the season.
The Coyotes would take that lead to the dressing room after an impressive first period from goaltender Curt Doyle. The Steam were solid, but found themselves down a goal thanks to brilliant goaltending from the 20-year old netminder.
Summerland would break through in the second period, tying the game on a power play with just under four minutes gone. The combination of Lane French, Ethan McLaughlin and Lane French worked the puck along the blue line for Summerland’s power play. Gove set McLaughlin up for a one timer, and a rebound fell to Cody Swan at the right post where he put home his 19th of the season. It would stand as the only goal of the second period, and the teams would head to the third tied at one goal apiece.
The tie wouldn’t last long, however, as the Steam found a way to break it early in the third period thanks to the recently returned Liam McLaren. McLaren would tally his first of the season as he received a pass from Matthew Byrne in the slot and deposited it through the five-hole of Curt Doyle to give the Steam the lead.
After the Coyotes tied the game again, the Steam once again took the lead. This time it was for good, as Lane French would pot his 10th of the season that stood as the game winner. After a good breakout, Mitch Gove sent a cross-ice pass onto the tape of French, who made no mistake going over the glove hand of Doyle and into the top corner to give Summerland a 3-2 lead.
Gove would then deposit a puck into an empty net in the final minute to seal the Steam a 4-2 victory, launching them into a road tilt the next night in Chase with some confidence.
In that game, the confidence showed from the start. From goaltender Eric Scherger forward, another solid 60-minute effort earned the Steam a convincing 4-1 victory over the Doug Birks Division’s 2nd place team. Scherger was brilliant, holding his team in on the road through 20-minutes to a 0-0 score while the found their legs and got comfortable at the Art Holding Memorial Arena.
They were outshot in the first period by a 16-7 margin, but stuck to their system and got their feet underneath them enough to make a push in the second period. Morey Babakaiff would open the scoring as the second period neared it’s halfway point, converting on a pretty 3-way passing play that left him alone with Chase Heat goaltender and (in my opionion) MVP Vince Benedetto.
Liam McLaren started the play by doing what he does best, loosening a puck on the half-wall with a bone jarring hit. He was able to shovel the puck down the wall to Matthew Byrne, who found Babakaiff alone in front of Benedetto with a pass on the tape. Babakaiff made no mistake, dragging the puck around the sprawling Chase goaltender for his 17th of the season.
It would stand as the only goal of the second period, and the Steam moved to the third looking to add. Mitch Gove scored his sixth of the season just six minutes into the period to extend the lead to 2-0. After a solid back-check produced a turnover, Gove raced up ice and sent a pass to the left wing for Lane French. French sped around a defender and found himself alone with Benedetto, who made the first stop. Gove followed up nicely to deposit the rebound into the empty cage to extend Summerland’s lead on the road.
Stymied on his first attempt at goal, Lane French would then get in on the scoring action to stretch Summerland’s lead to 3-0 with just over six minutes remaining. After good work in the offensive zone by he and linemates Cody Swan and Mitch Gove, French was able to find another rebound and bury his 11th of the year.
Matthew Byrne would cap off the scoring on the Summerland side of the sheet just over three minutes later, finding a loose puck and again putting home a rebound. His fourth of the season in just his sixth game closed the scoring for the Steam, although newly acquired Cameron MacKenzie would score for Chase to break the shutout bid from Eric Scherger with 2:08 to play.
4-1 winners on Saturday night in Chase, the Steam now prepare for another Doug Birks Division road trip. This coming weekend they’ll head to Revelstoke (Friday) and Sicamous (Saturday) looking to extend their run of solid play. They’ve won two in a row and five of their past seven games, and are finally starting to find some traction after going through one of the nastiest injury stretches possible through the first three months of the season.
With four solid forward lines and eight defensemen, the Steam are in good position to become cohesive as a group and become a team that people really don’t want to play against. That has to be the case if they want to make up some ground and find their way into one of the top two spots in the division in order to start the playoffs on home ice.
Puck drop for both of this weekend’s games go at 7:00pm, and will be available on playfullscreen.com, the official broadcast partner of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.