Summerland, BC – With just one game this past weekend, the Summerland Steam were looking forward to a bit of a break. The week started for them last Wednesday, when they entered the Sun Bowl Arena looking for a victory over the vastly improved Osoyoos Coyotes.
The Coyotes, under new Interim Head Coach Grant Williams for the first time, proved a tough test and worked hard to earn a 4-3 OT victory over the Steam. Williams earned his first win behind the Coyotes bench in his first game after the organization and former HC/GM Dean Maynard “Mutually Parted Ways” on Monday.
It looked like the Steam were going to run away early. Cody Swan scored a pair of goals in the first half of the first period to give Summerland a 2-0 lead on the road.
They’d take that lead to the dressing room before Bryson Garska got the Coyotes on the board in the second at 11:10. Garska would be tossed from the game not 10:00 of play later, as he made a vicious pass at Summerland’s Austin O’Neil while the Steam were on the power play. The Coyotes’ forward was assessed a 5-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct, plus an automatic 2-game suspension for the hit. O’Neil would miss the remainder of the second period, and was used sparingly in the third and subsequent overtime.
In the third, up 2-1, the Steam looked to add to their lead early. They were buzzing around the Coyotes’ net all night, and were able to beat Curt Doyle a third time in the first five minutes of the period. Ethan Grover took a pass in the slot and ripped his 2nd of the season over the glove of Doyle to restore Summerland’s 2-goal lead.
Despite the two goal advantage, the Steam were unable to hang on. A pair of power play goals from Brandon Della-Paolera and Jack Henderson tied the game at 3 and earned each team a single point.
With chances going both ways in overtime, the Coyotes were able to capitalize when Brendan Moseley made a good rush and net drive down the left wing side. He threw the puck to the front of the net and it snuck behind Eric Scherger to give the Coyotes their first home-ice victory of the season.
After the 4-3 overtime loss on Wednesday in the desert, the Steam took the ice in Kelowna on Friday with purpose. They fired 54 shots at Coyotes’ goaltender Curt Doyle on Wednesday before putting 46 shots on goal on the road in Kelowna on Friday. They’ve begun to get pucks to the net, and on Friday night it resulted in a 6-3 victory and a bit of a statement against their biggest rival.
Facing a full week with no games following Friday’s game in Kelowna, it would have been easy for the Steam to ‘fold their tent’, so to speak. The outing to Kelowna concluded a tough stretch of 6 games in 14 days that included a trip to the Kootenays and a run to 100 Mile House and back.
They went into Rutland Arena on a mission, however, and weren’t going to be denied.
After a disallowed goal on either side in the early stages of the first period, Morey Babakaiff came up with a power play goal to give the Steam an early lead. His 11th of the season, Babakaiff took a pass in the slot from Lane French, double clutched, and beat Chiefs’ goaltender Braeden Mitchell to put the Steam up 1-0.
Kelowna’s Ty Marchant tied things up shortly after, notching his first KIJHL goal on a Kelowna power play to send the game to the first intermission tied at 1. This would be a common theme on the night, as Summerland would never trail but also never lead by more than a goal until the late stages. After not much of anything in the second period, Cody Swan gave the Steam their lead back with his 12th of the season early in the third.
At even strength, he and Lane French did great work on the forecheck, freeing the puck up in the slot. French had a shot on goal, and Swan was there to drag the rebound to his backhand and beat a sprawling Mitchell.
As they did in the first period, the Chiefs promptly found a way to tie the game at two. This time it was newcomer Nathan Driver, who was able to intercept a pass on a Steam power play and beat Eric Scherger to the blocker side for his first KIJHL goal.
The tie lasted 12 seconds, however, as Summerland’s Cory Loring would notch his 9th of the season from the half-wall on the same power play to give the Steam their one-goal lead back.
Again, the Chiefs bounced back. And again, it was Nathan Driver. Driver scored his second of the game on the power play to tie the game at 3 with 5:20 to play. The Chiefs did good work to get the puck below the goal line, where Kayson Gallant found Driver at the far post for the tap in.
It looked like maybe we were destined for some more overtime. The Steam, no strangers to overtime, had other ideas. They got back in on offense and did well to forecheck their way into position to take a 4-3 lead. It was the line of French, Swan and Austin O’Neil who did the damage, with Swan picking up his second of the game on another Braeden Mitchell rebound with 1:59 remaining.
It would stand as the game winner, with the visitors adding two empty net goals to the tally and finalizing the score at 6-3.
For the second consecutive season, the Steam are responsible for the first home-ice loss of the season for the Kelowna Chiefs, who still hold a 9-point lead in the division standings as well as 4 games in hand. Head Coach Ken Law was very clearly not thrilled with his team’s effort on Friday night, and sent a loud message on Saturday when the Chiefs hosted the Grand Forks Border Bruins.
Law planted starting goaltender Braeden Mitchell, Co-Captain Zane Avery, Assistant Captain and leading scorer Kayson Gallant, as well as a host of others in the stands to watch from above. The beat went on anyway, as the Chiefs put up 50 shots on former Chief Shane Zilka on the way to a 4-1 victory.
For the Summerland Steam the win on Friday bodes well for their confidence, as they’ve been playing much improved hockey lately without getting many results. They were quite frankly unlucky to lose both their games in 100 Mile House in the month of November, as well as the game in Osoyoos last Wednesday night. They’re 3-4-0-1 in eight November games to date, with just two games to play to finish out the month. They’ve finally started to get healthy, and will expect both Jordon Woytas and Mitch Gove back sometime during the month of December.
The Steam hang on to a familiar 2nd place position in the Bill Ohlhausen Division, nine points back of the division leading Kelowna Chiefs, and four points clear of the third place Princeton Posse. Both teams have games in hand, so there will be a bit of scoreboard watching for the Summerland Steam as they use their week off to recuperate and prepare for the final weekend of November.
As for their final November weekend, they’ll play the North Okanagan Knights at home on Friday night, and visit the Princeton Posse for the first time this season on Saturday. The home date on Friday night is presented by TELUS, and tickets are just $5 in conjunction with the Summerland Festival of Lights.
Head downtown for the festival which starts at 4:00pm, check out the lights at 7:00pm and the fireworks at 7:01pm before coming to the arena for a 7:30pm start!