On Saturday night the Summerland Steam headed into Kelowna to face the division leading Chiefs, trying to narrow the gap and chase down 1st place. This matchup would go a long way in determining who would finish the season in 1st place in the Okanagan Division, and Summerland was able to come out with a well earned 4-3 victory. It was once again their veterans who led the way against the Chiefs, providing a strong forecheck and solid defensive play for the whole 60 minutes.
The Steam got the quick start they were after in this game, as they really took the play to the Kelowna Chiefs from the outset. They won the battles in all four corners early on and were rewarded just over 6 minutes to go when who else but Kienan Scott opened the scoring. He took a pass from Paulsen Lautard to the glove side of Chiefs' goaltender Tyler O'Donnell and went up high past his glove just under the crossbar. Daylan Robertson recorded the second assist on the play as he got the Steam moving forward with a pass to Lautard.
Jordan Salahor evened the score for the Chiefs before the end of the period on a shorthanded chance after a turnover by the Steam behind their own goal. He was allowed to walk out from the blocker side of goaltender Brett Huber and slide a puck into the back of the net. The lead wouldn't last long, however, as just under two minutes into the second period Olli Dickson finished off a three-way passing play between himself, Sam Nigg and Dylan Burton on a powerplay to give the Steam their lead back. Paulsen Lautard then added one of his own at the midway mark of the period on another powerplay, with assists going to Daylan Robertson and Jordan Boultbee.
Just three minutes later the Steam added another goal. This one was of the shorthanded variety and it was a thing of beauty. The Steam were able to clear a puck out of the zone on a penalty kill, straight to Braden Saretsky. Saretsky flew up the left wing with the puck before stopping on the half wall in the Kelowna zone to shake a defender, cutting to the middle, and absolutely roofing a shot over the blocker of Tyler O'Donnell. It went off the bar and straight down into the net, giving the Steam a 4-1 lead and seemingly deflating the Kelowna Chiefs.
The Steam kept pressure on and continued to frustrate the Chiefs into the middle of the third period before Kelowna put up some resistance and started to get some chances. With 6:03 remaining in the third period defenseman Kyle Hazelwood put a shot over the blocker of Brett Huber to shrink the lead to just 2. After this Kelowna goal, with 4:36 to go, Kelowna head coach Ken Andrusiak played a hunch and pulled his goaltender in favor of the extra attacker. It paid immediate dividends for him as his captain, Jordan Salahor, broke loose off a faceoff and potted his second of the night to bring the lead to 4-3.
Despite a late push and a powerplay in the final 4 minutes, Kelowna was not able to even the score and the Steam left Rutland Arena with a 4-3 victory. It was a solid team game that required sixty full minutes of solid play, and solid goaltending from Brett Huber.
The Steam clinch a playoff spot tonight as well, with their win combined with Princeton's 10-3 loss to the North Okanagan Knights. Osoyoos traveled to Kamloops tonight as well and fell 6-1 to the Storm. After all the dust settles on the Okanagan Division tonight, the Steam will sit just 3 points back of Kelowna, 7 points up on the Osoyoos Coyotes who sit 3rd, and are guaranteed to be playing meaningful games in a month when the playoffs begin.
The Steam will now take a couple days off before returning to practice on Tuesday in advance of a date with the North Okanagan Knights on January 31st at the Summerland Arena. The puck will drop that night at 7:30 and we'll have the call at KIJHL.ca if you can't make it out to support the Steam as they head to the playoffs!