Summerland, BC – After all the years of struggle encountered at the Sun Bowl Arena, the Summerland Steam finally put a bow on a near perfect season against the rival Osoyoos Coyotes on Wednesday night. In six meetings against their southern rivals this season they picked up 11 of a possible 12 points, 5 of a possible 6 at the Sun Bowl, and none in a bigger way than Wednesday’s 11-2 drubbing of the ‘Yotes.
Matthew Byrne (16, 17, 18) and Austin O’Neil (11, 12, 13) each recorded hat tricks in the victory, while Jordon Woytas netted a pair of goals. Josh Bourchier, Justin Swan and Ethan McLaughlin also scored a goal apiece as the Steam scored seemingly at will. Darby Tipton got the start in goal, and made 29 saves in the win.
The real story of the night, however, was Steam captain Cody Swan. After missing a month due to injury, Swan returned last Friday with four games to play in the regular season, needing three goals to tie the Franchise Record for regular season goals. The current record is 66, held by former Steam captain Paulsen Lautard. Swan came into Wednesday night’s contest, with three games to play, sitting at 63.
On a night like Wednesday it would have been very easy for the elder Swan to be a little bit selfish and try to score a couple of those goals needed to ink his name in the record books. Instead he spent the night dishing the puck to his linemates, and set a new modern day KIJHL record with seven assists in a single game. Both his linemates recorded hat-tricks, and Swan also helped younger brother Justin net his long awaited first goal of the season.
While the win was a total team effort, the Steam have still yet to show what they’re truly capable of with a full lineup, simply because they haven’t had one. There hasn’t been a single game since the addition of Matthew Byrne, Liam McLaren and Ethan McLaughlin in early December where the Steam have had everyone they want in the lineup. That time could be coming, and at just the right time with the playoffs around the corner. It’s expected that they’ll be able to ice that highly sought after full lineup on Friday when they face the Kelowna Chiefs for the final time this season at the Summerland Arena. Mitch Gove and Lane French both missed Wednesday’s game in Osoyoos, and are expected to be available to play on Friday night.
The Steam will close their regular season with a pair of divisional games, one against the Chiefs at home and one on the road to a place they’ve become all familiar with in the Princeton & District Arena.
The Steam and the Princeton Posse will face off Saturday night for the fourth time since January 24th, and if they haven’t already they might as well get cozy. The two are locked in the 2/3 match-up to start the Bill Ohlhausen Division Playoffs, which will start in Princeton next Friday, February 28th.
In a surprise move, the KIJHL has decided that teams who finish higher in the league standings will start the playoffs with home dates on Friday and Saturday night. For the first time in my seven seasons around this league, the right thing is being done with regards to home ice advantage. This means that the Posse and the Steam will play Games 1 & 2 Friday and Saturday in Princeton at 7:00pm, followed by Games 3 & 4 at the Summerland Arena on Monday and Tuesday, March 2nd and 3rd at 7:30pm. The full playoff schedule will be available in the coming days.