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Saturday, 20 December 2014

TOP LINE PROPELS STEAM PAST POSSE

On Friday night the Summerland Steam began a home and home series with the Princeton Posse to close out the pre-Christmas schedule for both teams. The two teams, set to play each other on back to back nights, see each other as much this weekend as they have in the first three months of the KIJHL season. The first leg of the home and home came in Princeton on Friday, and right from the hop the two teams were ready to play.

Summerland was a little shorthanded to start the game as the Steam were without Alex Williams and Coleton Fisher before they even got to the rink. Once they arrived, the team realized they’d be a little shorter than expected, as Michael McEachern opened his bag to find no skates. Thanks to the kindness of Posse Head Coach Bill Rotheisler who lent McEachern his own personal pair, McEachern was able to get into the game in the middle of the first period.

In a game that had everything, Summerland would come out with a 2-1 victory in what turned out to be a perfect road game. The end result was preceded by a fast paced, physical hockey game that saw both teams get several chances and both goalies stand tall.

Jack Mills would open the scoring with his 16th of the season in the first period when a puck found its way onto his stick in the slot. Much like his goal against 100 Mile House last weekend, Mills was able to corral the puck, find a hole, and rip one into the back of the net to give his team the lead. Braden Eliuk and Cole Woodliffe would draw assists on the play that put the Steam out to a 1-0 advantage.

Both Woodliffe and Mills now have 17 points in their past 12 games played, while Eliuk is the one doing all the 'dirty work' to get them the puck. He may not get on the scoresheet quite as often with 8 points in those 12 games, but he's the guy that goes deep in the corners and gets to the tough areas to retrieve pucks. All three have found chemistry on Summerland's top line since the departure of Paulsen Lautard to the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL on November 10th, and looked great against the Posse on Friday night.

After Mills opened the scoring with just over 8:00 to play in the first, Rylan Sideroff would add to the lead late in the period. With just :14 seconds left on the clock, he took a pass and hammered a slap shot past Posse goaltender Bailey Stephens. It was a perfectly placed shot that went low to the blocker side for Sideroff to collect his 4th of the season. Nelson Hurry and Cole Woodliffe drew assists on the goal, and Summerland went to the dressing room with a 2-0 lead at the end of the first. Steam starter Spencer Huff wasn’t tested much in the first period, facing just 4 shots while Summerland pounded 14 at the Princeton net.

The second period would see a massive turnaround, however, as Princeton took the pace to Summerland and got within one thanks to Brandon Schaber. Schaber was able to take a cross ice pass from Tyler Ehlers on a powerplay and wire one into a crowd in front of Spencer Huff. With a crowd in front, the puck found its way past Huff bringing the score to 2-1.

The Posse continued to press on in front of their home crowd, a fairly loud and happy one, but were unable to get another puck past Spencer Huff in the third period. Kurtis Klinger showed multiple times on the night why he's the captain and leader for the Posse, taking pucks hard to the net and fighting for every inch of space he could. Eden Dubchak was also impressive for the Posse, posing a threat whenever he was on the ice.

In the third, with the Posse pressing Summerland took a late penalty, but were able to kill it off thanks to some great penalty killing from the likes of Jack Mills, Tyson Klingspohn, Rylan Sideroff and Cole Williams. Both penalty kills were great on the night, with the only special teams goal being Schaber's 2nd period tally for the Posse. 

Despite not hitting the scoresheet on the night, I thought the Yukon line of Riley Pettitt, Jarrett Malchow and Wyatt Gale were exceptional in the game, as was newcomer Nicholas Gnazdowsky. Both Malchow and Gnazdowsky found themselves breakaways on the night, but neither was able to beat Bailey Stephens or his posts. 

After the win in Princeton on Friday, the Steam will play host in the back end of a home and home on Saturday night. It's the final game before the KIJHL 'goes dark' for a week for the Christmas break. The puck drops at 7:30 at the Summerland Arena, and Nesters Market is our game night sponsor. They’ll have some prize packs to give away as well as a full turkey dinner with all the fixins!

After a big win from Spencer Huff in Princeton Friday, expect the coaching staff to turn to veteran Brett Huber between the pipes at home on Saturday night. Alex Williams will not play for Summerland, as he's been diagnosed with a slight fracture in the scaphoid bone in his left wrist. Coleton Fisher is likely to sit out as well after suffering a concussion at the hands of 100 Mile Wranglers defenseman Tate Page last weekend.