Another game, and another Coyotes win. That makes 7 on the season in an 8 game season series with the Summerland Steam, with the lone different result coming on Jan 27 in a 2-2 tie. This game, a 3-1 Coyotes victory, was Summerland's to lose. They came out strong and stuck with the league champion Coyotes all game long, but defensive turnovers once again plagued the Steam.
The D zone has been a problem for the boys from Summerland of late, and it showed late in the game. After Jackson Glimpel opened the scoring with his 4th of the year on a first period powerplay, Daylan Robertson tied things up by tipping a Michael McEachern shot past Coyotes' goaltender Lawrence Langan in the 2nd. Robertson's 4th of the season tied the game and gave the Steam some life as they continued to press.
This game stayed a 1-1 tie for quite a while, and it was extremely fitting as the two teams were once again hellbent on getting the best out of one another and entertaining the fans.This game was eerily similar to that 2-2 tie on January 27th, but did have a little more rough stuff. Both teams had their chances at powerplays and Osoyoos cashed in for their first goal of the game. The powerplay came after a melee in the corner to the left of Steam starter Brett Huber resulted in coincidental minors with an original penalty on the play going to Jack Mills for high sticking. The 'Yotes PP cashed in, as they seem to do against Summerland.
The Steam went 0-for-3 on the powerplay on the night. Two of those powerplays came on calls for either cross checking or checking from behind that resulted in Coyotes' players being ejected from the hockey game. Brett Anderson was ejected first after a hit on Lathan McKinney on the end boards in the 2nd period. McKinney was slow to get up and played one more abbreviated shift before leaving the game and not returning.
In the third period Summerland was pressing for the go-ahead goal, and were doing a good job of hemming the Coyotes inside their own zone. Langan was solid in the Coyotes' net, and he weathered the storm for the 'Yotes long enough for them to get a gift from the Summerland defense. After a defensive turnover by the Steam with 2:23 to play, Luc Gradisar would cash in his 20th of the season with a well placed shot over the right shoulder of Brett Huber.
Reeling, the Steam had to go looking for some late-game heroics to get at least a point. While pressing in the offensive zone, the Yukon line (Pettitt, Gale, Malchow) were buzzing around looking for an equalizing goal. After some good work by Pettitt on the corner boards he made a quick dash against the flow of play and was hit from behind by the much bigger Darryl Senholt, leading to the second Coyotes' ejection of the game. This one was a major penalty in the mind of referee Nick Panter, and Senholt was given the gate and an early shower.
Senholt was clearly unhappy with the call, and for what it's worth, he should have been. There was no doubt it was a penalty and Summerland should have been on the powerplay, but from our point of view in the press box there were worse hits go uncalled in the game. Anderson's hit on McKinney was arguably worse than the check Senholt put on Pettitt, too, but Senholt was given the major penalty and will now have to miss the Coyotes' home finale with the North Okanagan Knights on Saturday night.
The call on Senholt wasn't the most surprising part of the play. As the referees arm shot into the air Summerland was in control of the puck. Rylan Sideroff made a good move around a Coyotes defender and walked into the slot for what would have been a great scoring chance, but the whistle blew as he began to wind his shot up. We weren't really sure at the time the reasoning for the whistle, and it's still a bit confusing as the downed Summerland player was in the midst of returning to his feet. Sideroff would have had a very good chance to tie the game with a shot from the slot with traffic in front.
With that powerplay, Summerland set up in the offensive zone with just under a minute to play. Jack Mills, playing QB on the powerplay in the final minute, set up on the half wall to the left of goaltender Lawrence Langan. As the Steam moved the puck up and down the wall, Mills saw his opportunity to curl out with a shot. As he did so he was hooked off the puck, allowing Troy Maclise to bank the puck the length of the ice into the empty net.
That's how the game would end, on a sour note for Summerland, but that's not how it always was. Besides the rough stuff it was an extremely entertaining hockey game. Fast paced, physical, back and forth action that saw the teams COMBINE for only 44 shots on net. Osoyoos proved to be the better team in the long run, but Summerland gave it their best effort and played a pretty consistent hockey game throughout.
There's a reason the Coyotes are the league champions (Congrats, by the way) and it was a good litmus test for the Summerland Steam to know that when they stay out of the penalty box they can hang with the best team in the KIJHL night after night.
After last night's action, the Okanagan Division playoff picture is still a little cloudy. Heading into the last night of Okanagan Division action of the 2014/15 KIJHL season on Saturday, 2 things are clear:
Osoyoos will finish 1st and Summerland will finish 2nd.
What is unclear is the seeding of 3rd and 4th. Princeton and Kelowna have both locked up playoff spots, and after playing one another last night (a 3-1 Kelowna win). the Chiefs sit 3rd. The teams are tied for points, but the Chiefs have 1 more regulation time win.
The Chiefs will host the Summerland Steam tonight, while the Posse will head to Sicamous to play the Eagles. Any form of Kelowna win, or a Princeton loss, will result in the Chiefs finishing 3rd and the Posse in 4th. The only way the Posse can jump the Chiefs is with a win in Sicamous coupled with a Chiefs loss to the Summerland Steam on Saturday night.
Onto the PLAYOFFS!