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Saturday, 3 January 2015

EAGLES SOAR OVER STEAM

Leading into the New Year the Summerland Steam were looking to turn the page on a 3 game losing streak and 'right the ship' at home against the Sicamous Eagles on Friday night. Unfortunately for the boys from Summerland, it didn't go down the way they wanted it to. The end result was a 4-3 loss to the Eagles that saw the two teams COMBINE for 41 shots on net. 

Right from the opening puck drop of Friday night's game, nothing went right for the Summerland Steam. Prior to puck drop the Steam learned that goaltender Brett Huber, who was up with the West Kelowna Warriors and starting in goal in the BCHL, left the game in the first period with an apparent leg injury. There is no update on his status at this time but the Steam are hopeful he will be able to return within the next 3 games.

Just :19 into the hockey game in Summerland the Steam were forced to take a penalty as Adam Jones impeded an Eagle player from getting to the front of the net to Spencer Huff. They were able to kill off the minor penalty, but it allowed Sicamous to get comfortable early on and really take the pace to the Steam in the early going. Summerland wouldn't register their first shot on net until near the midway mark of the first frame. 

The scoring got started at 11:05 of the first period when Sicamous Captain Nathan Grieve was the benefactor of some good wall play from linemates Owen Rowsell and Riley Jepson. Rowsell worked the puck along the wall to Jepson who found Grieve in the middle of the ice. Grieve was able to go to his backhand and raise the puck over a sprawling Spencer Huff and into the net to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. 

The Eagles would continue to pressure and add to their lead at 8:21 of the period when Bradley Whitehead was the recipient of a bounce in front of the Summerland net. After a botched clearing attempt from the Steam (there were many on this night), Whitehead skated the puck from the blueline down into the corner to the right of Huff. As he continued around the back of the net he threw the puck out front where it went off a Steam defender to make the score 2-0. 

With Summerland reeling, it looked like it was going to be a long night for Spencer Huff in the Summerland net. For a while in the first period the Steam could barely get the puck out of their own zone, and definitely couldn't string two passes together. Sicamous continued to pressure inside the offensive zone but were unable to extend their lead any further, and that was when Summerland got their break. After a timely pinch from Adam Jones in the neutral zone, he was able to take the puck over the Sicamous blue line, cut wide, and rip a shot over the glove of Eagles' goaltender Olivier Charest. It was one of just four shots in the first period for Summerland, who had a truly terrible period.

Just when it looked like they might get lucky and get out of the worst home period of the season down by just a goal, Sicamous regained their 2 goal lead. With :01 left on the clock, Nathan Plessis was able to turn Rylan Sideroff inside out and get in alone on the Summerland net. He made no mistake and put the puck in the net as the buzzer sounded. The referees deliberated for a brief moment and called it a good goal, which it was. Plessis' 4th of the season was assisted by Scott Robinson and Bradley Whitehead, and put the Eagles' back up by 2 headed to the break. 

Some strong words must have been said in the first intermission in the Summerland locker room, because they looked like a different team to start the second. They were crisp, making clean zone exits and good, hard passes while sustaining pressure inside the Sicamous zone. They were able to pull back within one at 11:57 of the period when Cole Woodliffe took a good pass from Coleton Fisher on a 2-on-1 and made a move around Charest to find an empty cage. Jack Mills would draw the second assist on the play, recording his team leading 38th point of the season.

Summerland was well on their way to getting the game tied up after the Woodliffe goal, as they continued to buzz around the Sicamous net. They had several good chances to bury pucks behind Charest, but instead allowed Sicamous to gain their two goal lead back. With 7 minutes left and the Steam buzzing, the Eagles brought the puck out of their own zone. A bad pinch by a Steam defender at the blue line allowed the Eagles a 3-on-1 in which they made no mistake. With pressure coming from the backcheck of Summerland, Eagles defenseman Arlyn Semeschuk threw a puck to the front of the net. There, it went off Riley Cardinal and came all the way to the back post where Korwin Shewchuk deposited it into a yawning cage behind Spencer Huff. 

The Shewchuk goal would stand as the winner for the Eagles, but it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of the Summerland Steam. The Steam continued to press on into the third, and were able to get a goal back thanks to some good work by the line of Kendell Wilson, Nick Gnazdowsky and Cody Egilson. Gnazdowsky was the trigger man in front of Olivier Charest, but the credit should go to both Cody Egilson and Kendell Wilson. Both put in good spadework on the end boards to forecheck and come up with the puck. Wilson would not pick up a point on the play, but he tied up 3 Eagles' defenders while Egilson picked the puck out of his skates. He was able to swing around the back of the net and find the trailer, Gnazdowsky, in the slot. Gnazdowsky battled through 2 Eagles sticks to get to the puck and was able to bury his 6th of the season to bring the Steam within 1. 

That would be as close as they got, however, as a late push would come up short. Full credit goes to the Sicamous Eagles for Friday night's win, as they got up early and weathered the storm throughout the third period in particular to get the W. They are a big, physical hockey team and Summerland seemed to struggle with it a bit at times. The loss to the Eagles marks the Steam's 4th in a row, and they'll look to bounce back on Sunday when they head to Princeton to face the Posse. 

The Posse have turned it around since the Holiday Break, winning both games they've played over Summerland (4-1) and Kelowna (3-1). They're a tough team to play against, particularly in the small, unfriendly confines of the Princeton & District Arena. The Steam will be happy to be rid of the 'OK Corral' after this weekend, as it is the last time they'll play there this season with the exception of a playoff matchup with the Posse. They are 2-1 there so far this season, but it seems like every time they come home from a game in Princeton there are bumps and bruises due to the toughness of the Posse and the size of their rink.

Puck drop goes at 2:00 PM on Sunday in Princeton and you can catch all the action on KIJHL.ca. There is a possibility that there will be no play-by-play available for the game so it is likely that you will hear 'sounds of the game'. 

Summerland won't return to home ice until next Sunday at 5:30 when they host the North Okanagan Knights, but go on the road both this Sunday to Princeton and next Saturday night to Chase to play the second game of the season series with the Chase Heat.