For the first time in a long time, the Summerland Steam found themselves with a near full roster this weekend as they played three games in three days for the second weekend in a row. Due to injuries and nearly 70 man games lost to injury through 14 games, the Steam entered the weekend being able to dress 18 skaters for the first time in over a month.
After a trip to the Kootenays last weekend that produced middling results, Summerland spent the week at practice working out the kinks and trying to be positive. They knew they deserved better than the three losses, two in regulation and one in overtime, that they got in the Kootenays, and they made sure they were ready to go on Friday night when the reigning, defending KIJHL Champion Revelstoke Grizzlies rolled into town.
The Steam welcomed new defenceman Ante Mustapic to the lineup for the first time on Friday, Gavyn Entzminger made his home debut, and Ty Banser returned from an injury that kept him out for a month. He showed no rust, immediately making an impact with his 200-ft game and puck tracking ability that allows his teammates to move a little more freely.
The Grizzlies opened the scoring on Friday, with rookie forward Sam Petruch beating Eric Scherger just 2:30 into the contest. Revelstoke’s Griffen Ryden was able to pick up an errant pass at the Grizzlies’ blue line, and spring Petruch on a breakaway. Despite Ethan Grover’s best efforts on the back-check, Petruch made a move to his backhand and beat Scherger up high to open the scoring.
Cory Loring would even the score with his 5th of the season before the end of the period, assisted by Ty Banser to even the score at 1 after a period. Loring was the recipient of a pass in the neutral zone that sprung he and Zack Cooper on a 2-on-2. Cooper did a great job to occupy the centre lane and drew both defencemen to him, allowing Loring to cut across and find himself 1-on-1 with Grizzlies starter Andrew Palm. Loring won the battle, ripping a shot to the blocker side to tie the game at 1 after a period of play.
The Steam started the second looking to take control of the hockey game, taking a 2-1 lead 3:20 into the period thanks to Lane French. French’s third of the year was produced off a great pass from Cody Swan, who found some space in the left wing corner, pulled a puck from a pile and fed to a wide open French out front. He beat Palm from about 10 feet out to give the Steam a 2-1 lead.
They would then take a 3-1 lead thanks to a power play goal from Morey Babakaiff near the halfway point of the second period. Babakaiff’s 8th of the season and third on the power play came just :13 into a Steam man advantage, as he received a pass in front of the net from Lane French and deposited it past Palm. Cory Loring would draw the second assist on the marker, and the Steam would hold the 3-1 lead through two periods of play.
The defending champs weren’t going away without a fight, however, as they stormed back with a pair of goals from defenders Brendan Vulcano and Jordan Kohlmann to tie the game with 8:15 to play. Both came via long, screened point shots, the first from Vulcano a rebound off the long shot and the second from Kohlmann getting straight through the maze to beat Scherger up high and tie the game at three.
The push from the Grizzlies would earn them a point, and a chance to pick up a second in overtime, but not before Summerland had three chances to end it in the final minute of regulation time. The best came onto the stick of Cory Loring as he exited the penalty box with seven seconds on the clock. He found himself all alone on a breakaway racing for the net with just :03 to go, but was stopped by Andrew Palm to force overtime.
In the extra frame(s) both teams had their chances, and it went deep into double overtime before Dalton Irvine was able to end it with another long shot from the point. While playing 3-on-3, Irvine was able to circle the Steam zone before exiting to regroup. He was then able to set up a play that saw him pass off and get the puck back while traffic formed in front of Eric Scherger, and Irvine was able to beat Scherger high to seal the victory for the Grizzlies.
Summerland would settle for the single point, and move on to face the North Okanagan Knights on Saturday night. It was again Eric Scherger who got the tap from Head Coach Ken Karpuk, and he was nothing short of spectacular in a 40-save performance. His performance helped the Steam pick up a much needed 3-1 victory.
Morey Babakaiff opened the scoring with his 9th of the season early in the second period, receiving a pass from Lane French on a Summerland power play and beating Caeden Bellmann in the North Okanagan goal from about 10 feet out. Austin O’Neil would draw the second assist on Babakaiff’s team leading 4th power play goal of the season and the Steam took a 1-0 lead.
A few minutes later Ethan Grover would get on the board with his first of the season, finding himself on the finishing end of a 2-on-1 with Zack Cooper to make it 2-0. Cory Loring made a good bounce pass off the boards for Cooper to skate onto, and he fed Grover with a backhand pass in front of the goal. Grover was able to push it through a sprawling Bellmann to give the Steam a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Tyler Jamieson would score a power play goal for the Knights in the third, but as they pushed with the net empty an errant pass found Morey Babakaiff, who deposited the puck into the empty net to give the Steam a 3-1 victory. Eric Scherger was named the game star, and earned himself a third start in as many days on Sunday when the Steam played host to the Spokane Braves at the Summerland Arena.
As with the previous pair of games on the weekend, Summerland’s veteran players led the way. They’d pick up a 6-3 victory on the back of a hat-trick from Lane French (4,5,6), a pair of goals from Cory Loring (6,7), and a single from Austin O’Neil.
French opened the scoring just under 3:00 into the hockey game, driving the net and finishing a rebound off a Jarrett Watson shot. Watson, the 16-year old Summerland defender, found his way down the right side and made a power move to the middle, putting a shot on Braves goaltender Marcello De Antunano. The first attempt was stopped, but Watson collected his own rebound and found French who had an entire net to put the puck in.
The Braves would push back after Summerland opened the scoring, getting goals from Nate Wilson and Ryan McKenna to take a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period of play. The Braves did a good job to force Summerland backwards in the first period, something the Steam were evidently not going to let happen all night.
They arrived for the second period with a purpose, and a shorthanded goal from Lane French that tied the game at 2 was the kick-start they needed. French and Morey Babakaiff did great work on the Steam penalty kill to force a turnover in the Spokane zone, and they teamed up for French’s second of the night to tie the game at 2 with 12:26 to play in the second frame.
Cory Loring would then add his first of two on the night on a bizarre play that freed him up on the left wing. A puck that was knocked down in the Summerland zone by the high stick of a Spokane forward should have been touched and blown dead right then and there. Instead, the Spokane defender hovered over it while skating backwards out to centre, where Loring chipped it past him and was off to the races. A great shot up under the bar beat Marcello De Antunano and gave Summerland the lead.
It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, as they took the 3-2 edge to the third period and only added to it. Austin O’Neil scored his 6th of the year early in the third off a great bit of work from Steam captain Cody Swan. Swan was able to retain a puck through three Spokane defenders and find a clear lane to the net. Instead of shooting, he slid the puck cross-crease to a wide open O’Neil to make it 4-2.
Loring would then add his second of the game with a really pretty toe-drag move with 7:50 to play. His 7th of the season, and nicest one to date, saw him drag the puck around a defender in front of De Antunano, and then beat the Spokane goaltender to stretch Summerland’s lead to 5-2.
Just over a minute and a half later, French would complete his hat-trick off a nifty pass from Cody Swan with just over 5:00 to play. Swan and Austin O’Neil worked the puck down the right wing boards, and swan found French coming off the bench into the slot, where he made no mistake to make it 6-2 Summerland.
Ryan McKenna would add his second of the game late to make the score 6-3, where it would finish.
The Steam got the results they wanted from their weekend set, five of a possible six points, and it was their veterans who led the way. 20-year old forwards Lane French (4g,2a), Cory Loring (3g,2a), Cody Swan (0g,5a) and Morey Babakaiff (3g,2a) combined for 10 goals and 21 points in three games this weekend, leading the charge when their team needed them most.
Eric Scherger also took the bull by the horns this weekend, starting and finishing all three games while picking up two wins.
The set of games this weekend finish off a busy month of October for the Summerland Steam, who have played the second most games in the league through 2 months of play at 17. The only team to play more is the Spokane Braves, who played their 18th game of the season in Summerland on Sunday afternoon.
The pair of wins to finish the weekend salvages what was a tough month for the Steam both in the results category and the injury category. They spent the majority of the month without some of their most dynamic offensive weapons, and still found a way to come out with a 4-5-0-2 record in 11 October games. Save for a blip in the radar in Fernie to start their Kootenay road trip every single game was close, and they battled through to keep themselves in second place in the KIJHL Standings. They played well enough, too, to win a couple of those games that go in the loss column. All in all, a very positive month for a young hockey team looking to find it’s stride.
The Steam will now turn their attention to next weekend, and their first look at the 2020 Cylone Taylor Cup Host 100 Mile House Wranglers. They’ll open the month of November with a visit to the South Cariboo Rec Centre on Friday night, before hosting the Chase Heat on Saturday at the Summerland Arena.