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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

LOSING STREAK STRETCHES TO 5 AS STEAM WELCOME BACK FAMILIAR FACES

Leading into the Holiday break the Summerland Steam were rolling. They'd won 8 of their previous 10 and were **attempting** to chase down the league leading Coyotes. Heading into the unofficial second half of the season the Steam felt they were in the race for the Okanagan Division and had an opportunity to catch the Coyotes provided they used their games in hand and head-to-head matchups to their advantage. In this installment of Trolley Talk there is lots to cover, so we're going to break it up into 2 categories: 


ON THE ICE


The New Year hasn't started out well for the Summerland Steam. They've lost all 5 of their games since the Holiday break including two to the Princeton Posse and back to back games with the Osoyoos Coyotes. They've been playing good hockey while battling the injury bug, but have come up short by 1 goal in 4 of those 5 losses. 


The latest, a 3-2 loss to the Princeton Posse on Sunday afternoon, was no different than the previous 4. Summerland played a great two way game and controlled the puck possession game for most of the hockey game. They played a great road game, but two powerplay goals from Jack Mills weren't enough to stop the Posse. Connor Sloan scored the winner late in the game, beating Spencer Huff with a shot from the slot. Brandon Workun and Eden Dubchak scored the others for Princeton and Stephen Heslop picked up the win making 31 saves. 


It was nice to see the powerplay click a couple of times on the road for the Steam. On home ice they have the 3rd best powerplay in the league as they hold a solid 25% success rate, but on the road it is a much different story. Going into Sunday's game they had a sub-10% success rate on the road, so it was great to see it click a couple of times. 


As good as the powerplay was, it could have won the Steam the hockey game had their D-zone coverage been just a LITTLE bit better. Early in the season Summerland was one of the best defensive teams in the KIJHL, and still are based on team Goals Against Average. Lately though, they've shown that they're having a little trouble clearing the defensive zone on the first attempt, which causes problems all over the defensive zone. The Steam seem to be turning a lot of pucks over either at their own blue line or the offensive blue line, too, which doesn't help the defensive cause. These types of giveaways cause odd-man rushes into the defensive zone and cause them to 'chase the game' at times. They'll have to fine-tune that part of their game in practice this week if they want to get back on the winning track.



OFF THE ICE

As Friday night's game against Sicamous got underway at the Summerland Arena we learned that Brett Huber, who was up with the BCHL's West Kelowna Warriors, had been hurt in the first period of a game in Salmon Arm against the Silverbacks. Initial diagnosis was a lower body injury and after treatment from physiotherapists and doctors, it looks as though Huber will miss 2-3 weeks as per Steam General Manager Gregg Wilson. Spencer Huff will handle the crease in the absence of Huber, while Summerland native and Steam AP Jared Breitkreuz will handle back-up duties.

Heading into this past weekend the Steam were already without Alex Williams and Cole Williams. Alex will likely be out until around playoff time with a scaphoid fracture in his left wrist while Cole is Day to Day with an upper body injury and is hopeful of returning to the Steam blue line this coming weekend.


In that game on Friday night both Braden Eliuk and Wyatt Gale left and didn't return after taking separate hits. Both are listed as Day to Day with Upper Body injuries and are probable to play in the Steam's 2 games this upcoming weekend.


All of these additions to the Steam lineup will be helpful, but perhaps the most prominent news of the week was announced on successive days via the Steam Twitter account ( @SteamKIJHL ). Prior to puck drop in Princeton on Sunday it was announced that former player and Captain of last season's Okanagan Division Championship team, Daylan Robertson, would return to the team to play the rest of this season. Robertson finished in a 3-way tie for the Steam scoring lead last season with 56 points and will be a welcome addition to the Steam's current lineup. 


A day later, on Monday, the Steam announced again via Twitter that Paulsen Lautard would be returning from the BCHL after spending the last 2 months with the Trail Smoke Eaters. Lautard started the 2014/15 season as the Captain of the Summerland squad, and recorded 32 points in just 19 games before departing for the BCHL. Robertson and Lautard were linemates last season and were two of the players tied for the team scoring lead with 56 points.


The two roster additions bring help to a Steam roster that is just starting to get healthy coming into the back third of the season. Because of point totals in the Okanagan Division, the Steam have clinched a playoff spot and will be playing past February 16th when the KIJHL season comes to an end. Both the Steam and the Coyotes have clinched playoff births in the Okanagan Division, and it is very likely that the Princeton Posse and Kelowna Chiefs will be doing so very soon as well.



WHAT'S NEXT?


Summerland will have a week to help get them healthy and up to speed in practice before they take to the road on Saturday to play in Chase. They will then return home to play the North Okanagan Knights on Sunday evening at 5:30.