I should first start out by saying something about the Chase goaltender, Michael Byer. After a bit of a shaky start and some rebound control issues in the first period, Byer was fantastic in this hockey game, backstopping his team to a victory with 38 saves.
Early in the first period, just :19 seconds in, Summerland got off to the start they wanted to. After establishing pressure in the offensive zone, Michael McEachern was able to find a lane and take a shot towards the Chase goal. Jack Mills was effective as a screen in front of Michael Byer, and was able to get a tip on the puck to record his 13th of the season and give his team an early 1-0 lead.
The lead was short lived, however, as Cody Hodges tied the game for Chase just over 6 minutes alter. Hodges' team leading 17th of the season tied the game at one as he beat Steam starting goaltender Spencer Huff on a wrap around. Huff attempted to get over to the post as Hodges came around the back of the net, but he was clipped by his own teammate and prevented from getting there as Hodges tucked the puck in.
As the game went back and forth Summerland continued to pressure the Heat with the game tied. Michael Byer was forced to make several saves in the first period, but Summerland couldn't convert on the many second chances received while Byer was sorting out his rebound control.
Finally, with just 1:05 left in the period after several minutes of sustained Summerland pressure, Nelson Hurry was able to find a puck off a faceoff win and put it on net. The puck took a misdirection on the way to the net and eluded Michael Byer low to the blocker side. It looked like it might have been tipped by Kendell Wilson on the way to the net, but the officials awarded the goal to Hurry, marking his 4th of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead heading to the break.
Both teams would get a goal in the second period as Summerland continued to hammer the Chase net with shots. It was Chase who scored first in the 2nd frame, at 16:46, when Travis Beaubien was the recipient of a friendly bounce off the end boards. After a shot from Cole Perison was sent wide, it bounced straight off the back boards and out the other side where Beaubien was waiting to fire it into an open cage to tie the score.
The tie would only last just 1:10, as at 15:36 Cole Woodliffe recorded his 16th marker of the season to restore Summerland's lead. On his first attempt, Woodliffe made an unbelievable move to the front of the net after taking a pass from Jack Mills, only to be stopped by Mike Byer. Woodliffe was then able to pick up his own rebound, circle out into the slot and rip an A+ level shot into the top right corner of the net.
Summerland would head into the third period with a 3-2 lead, and would carry that lead through the first half of the third period. They continued to pound shots at the Chase net, but Mike Byer was ready and made sure to keep his team within one. It seemed, for a while at least, that Chase was more interested in body than puck, but they finally got their break with 7:30 to play. As they dumped the puck into the Summerland zone behind Spencer Huff, Huff went out to play it. As he rimmed it around and attempted to get back to his net he tripped, which left Wesley Matsuda with an open shot from the right wing into an open net to tie the game.
Now a tie hockey game, both teams showed a little more urgency than in the previous minutes. Both were trying to push for a win in regulation rather than just playing for overtime. It looked like Summerland might have an edge in play with just over 4 minutes left, but as Riley Pettitt took a puck to the net he collided hard with goaltender Michael Byer. This sent both teams into a bit of a frenzy around the Chase goal crease, and Pettitt was given (deservedly so) the only penalty on the play, sending Chase to the powerplay.
With that powerplay, the league's best, Chase went to work. Summerland was able to kill the first minute off with relative ease, but after a timeout and regroup by Head Coach Brad Fox and the Chase Heat, the Heat were able to convert. After working the puck feverishly around the zone looking for a shooting lane, Kaleb Boyle was able to slide through the seam down the middle and take a pass from Kolten Moore. The Heat captain made a couple of nice moves to beat two Steam defenders and rifled a shot up over the glove of Spencer Huff for the game winner with 2:35 left on the clock.
Summerland attempted to get the game tied, firing five shots at Michael Byer in the final 2 minutes. They weren't able to beat him though, and the score stood final at 4-3 in favour of the road team.
- Summerland needs to be a little tighter on D headed into their next game. Their zone exits were a little sloppy vs Chase and were the cause of 2 of Chase's 4 goals.
- I thought Nicholas Gnazdowsky was GREAT for the Steam in his debut with the team. The coaching staff put him on a line with Jarrett Malchow and Coleton Fisher in his first game and all three were around the puck all night.
- Jack Mills continues to pile on the points for Summerland. He's really come on since the departure of Paulsen Lautard and has formed some chemistry alongside his linemates Cole Woodliffe and Braden Eliuk.
- Cole Woodliffe showed off a big-league wrist shot when he scored his 16th of the season for Summerland in the 2nd period. After an unreal move to get to the net he circled back to the slot and the release was so quick the goalie didn't see it until he fished it out of his net.
- Cole Williams was steady as ever on the blue line once again. He'll have to be for the next little while, as Alex Williams will be sidelined for the Steam for at least the next 10 days.
WHAT'S NEXT: THE 100 MILE HOUSE WRANGLERS
After the tough loss last night, it's going to be important for Summerland to have a quick bounce back. After all, they don't have any time to dwell with a very tough test coming up tonight against the 100 Mile House Wranglers. The Wranglers come in sitting 2nd in the Doug Birks division, losing last night at the hands of the first place team, the Kamloops Storm, by a score of 7-3.
The Steam and the Wranglers have locked horns once already this season, that being a 2-1 win in favour of the Wranglers on September 19. The win for the Wranglers came thanks to a stellar goaltending performance from Kristian Stead, who stopped 35 of 36 shots he faced.
In the previous matchup between these two teams, Summerland played well defensively and pushed the pace, allowing only 15 shots against while outshooting their opponent by more than double. Noted Steam 'killer' Devan Suidy, former member of the Princeton Posse, was at it again in that game as he scored both Wrangler goals en route to the victory. He is currently listed as 'Questionable' to play in tonight's game, as he's currently dealing with a lower body injury.
One guy the Steam will have to look after tonight is former Summerland Steam F Brett Harris. Harris played with the Steam in the 2012-13 season, racking up 43 points in 49 games in Summerland. For the Wranglers this season, Harris has played in 24 games, amassing 10 goals and 28 points to go along with 17 PIMs.
In addition to their captain, Devan Suidy, 100 Mile will also be without Cole Zimmerman, who is up with the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL. Tavis Roch and Brady Ward will also miss tonight's contest due to suspension.
Looking through the numbers the teams are eerily similar. Both sit 2nd in their respective divisions, both have better than + .500 winning percentages in their last 10 and overall, and both get contributions in one way or another from every single player on the roster. 100 Mile is a little banged up at the moment and missing a few bodies, so they'll likely be looking to simplify their game and make their chances count.
Both powerplays are good, Summerland sitting 8th and 100 Mile House sitting 7th with .47% being the difference between the two. Where they differ is the penalty kill. Summerland sits mid-league with the 7th best penalty kill at 85.45%, while 100 Mile House sits 19th in the KIJHL at a 76.67% success rate while a man down.
It should be a great hockey game between two evenly matched teams who are coming in ready to play. Puck drop goes at 7:30 at the Summerland Arena, and you can pick up tickets at Nesters Market in advance or at the door prior to puck drop for just $10. You can join Mike and I on the webcast tonight for a full pre-game show starting at 7:15 on www.kijhl.ca. Follow along on twitter leading up to game time as well as throughout the game with us at @SteamKIJHL or myself @Steam_Voice. You can follow the Wranglers at @100MHWranglers, and their play-by-play man, Josh Hall, at @vancan19.