After a battle in the Similkameen on Friday night, the Summerland Steam and the Princeton Posse went head to head again on Saturday in the back end of a home and home. Summerland won the first matchup 2-1, and were looking to duplicate the result.
Both teams came out looking to get on the board early, but both were unsuccessful. The first period remained scoreless to the final buzzer, although there were more penalties in the period than there were in Friday night's game. The intensity was heightened from the very beginning and the two teams began to show their distaste for one another early on.
In the second there wasn't much change as both teams continued to put shots on net while playing an extremely physical hockey game. Both starting goaltenders, Brett Huber for Summerland and Stephen Heslop for Princeton, were tested throughout the first half of the hockey game without being beaten.
The tide seemed to turn at 15:11 of the second period, when Princeton's Jamieson Ree took a penalty for charging. It wasn't the penalty itself that seemed to give the Steam their edge, but the fact that while taking a penalty for charging, Ree collided with his teammate, forward Brandon Schaber. The injury to Schaber, one of the key forwards for the Posse, seemed to stir the Posse up a little bit.
On that powerplay the Steam were unable to beat the Posse, although they controlled the play. It wasn't long after the powerplay that Summerland took a 1-0 lead thanks to Braden Eliuk's 6th of the season. After some good work to clear the defensive zone from Jack Mills, Cole Woodliffe was able to chase down a Princeton defender and beat him to the puck before finding Eliuk in the slot. Eliuk made no mistake going low to the blocker side of Stephen Heslop to stake his team to the lead.
Heslop had the tougher night of the two goaltenders, as Summerland went hard to the net and knocked him around 2 or three times in the first 30 minutes of the hockey game. Riley Petttitt was the third and final one to do it, and was punished accordingly, as referee Devin Samaadar assessed Pettitt 2 minutes for goaltender interference and a game misconduct with :33 to play in the second period.
In the third, on a Steam penalty kill, newcomer Nicholas Gnazdowsky finally found the scoresheet. He was able to skate a puck through the neutral zone on the penalty kill, step over the blue line and wire a wrister high over Heslop to extend the Steam's lead to 2-0. In 4 games with the Steam, Gnazdowsky has had about a dozen chances to pot his first, and he was finally able to on Saturday night.
The second Steam goal was a nice cushion, as it gave Brett Huber some room to work with in the Steam net. He was sharp in the final 10 minutes of the hockey game, thwarting every opportunity that the Princeton Posse generated. He would finish with a 29 save shutout and first star honours on the night, while Jarrett Malchow was able to seal the victory with an empty netter in the final minute of the hockey game.
It was found out after the game that Brandon Schaber had completely shattered his nose and will require reconstructive surgery. The Steam wish Brandon Schaber all the best in his recovery and hope to see him back on the ice as soon as possible!
Calvin Hadley was the Steam player on the receiving end of the charge from Jamieson Ree that caused the penalty and the Schaber injury, and he did not return to the game either. Hadley's injury is relatively minor and he should have no problem playing in the Steam's next game, which is after the Christmas Break.
The KIJHL now 'goes dark' for a week, as there are no games played between December 20th and 27th. After the break, the Steam have 3 more big divisional games as they play a home and home with the powerhouse Osoyoos Coyotes on December 27th (8:30PM, Osoyoos) and December 28th (7:30, Summerland) before taking on the Princeton Posse again on New Years' Eve, December 31st, at 5:30.
The Steam sit firmly in 2nd place in the Okanagan Division with 45 points and a 22-9-0-1 record. They remain 12 points behind the Osoyoos Coyotes (with 3 games in hand) and 13 points ahead of the Princeton Posse, who sit 3rd with 32 points.
Happy Holidays from the Summerland Steam Junior B Hockey Club!