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Sunday, 1 March 2015

MILLS' TRIUMPHANT RETURN SENDS STEAM TO SECOND ROUND

The Summerland Steam celebrate their Round 1 victory over the
Kelowna Chiefs at the final buzzer on Saturday, February 28th, 2015.
Photo: Sarah Mayer (shotsbysarah.tumblr.com)
After 6 games in a see-saw series that went back and forth, the Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs did battle in an epic 7th and deciding game on Saturday night at the Summerland Arena.

Game 7 is what you dream of as a kid and after taking a puck to the face and missing Games 5 & 6, Jack Mills wasn't going to miss this one. He made a triumphant return for Summerland, tallying both goals in a 2-1 victory over the Kelowna Chiefs. The Game 7 victory came on home ice for the Steam, in front of a record crowd of 450. It was loud, it was boisterous, and it was a heck of a lot of fun. Both teams brought everything they had to the table and left nothing to be desired in a game that saw no penalties called in the first period. Oddly enough 2 of Kelowna's 3 powerplays came on minor penalties to Braden Eliuk, who won the Okanagan Division's Most Sportsmanlike Player award by accumulating just 8 PIM over 49 regular season games.

The first period saw no scoring and no penalties, just a lot of pressure from the Summerland Steam. They outshot the Chiefs 16-7 in the period and had several good scoring opportunities thwarted by Chris Turner in between the pipes. Turner was tremendously good in this hockey game right from the start, including one of the best saves I've ever seen in my life on Wyatt Gale early in the 2nd period. On a 2-on-1, the Kelowna defender did a good job taking the pass away from Jarrett Malchow. Malchow was forced to shoot and hit the post to the left of Turner, only to have the puck jut out the other side. Gale was following up with a wide open net to shoot at when Turner reached back with an open hand to swat the puck away and keep the game knotted at 0.

Unfortunately, Turner was hurt on the play and looked to be favouring the inside of his blocker (right) hand. Trainers came out to check on him but he stayed in the game and continued to cause all sorts of problems for the Summerland Steam.

Braden Eliuk's name was the first to enter the scoresheet on this night, taking a tripping penalty at 14:47 of the 2nd period. Kelowna would cycle the puck around on the powerplay but couldn't beat Brett Huber in the Summerland net. Huber stood tall all night long, making 26 saves in the clinching victory.

Jack Mills would then start to make his mark on the game, as he walked off the right wing wall and roofed one over Chris Turner at 8:52. It was a gorgeous move off the wall and an even better shot, which it was going to take to beat Turner on this night. He was that good.

Summerland would continue to pressure but wasn't able to find another goal. In the third period Kelowna showed some more pushback than they'd had in the previous 2, and managed to tie the game up exactly 2:00 into the period on a long shot from Carter Melnyk. Melnyk shot the puck from the left point on the powerplay and watched as it clanged around off of two or three players, eventually hitting a Steam defender last and sliding into the net.

At 1-1, it looked as though we might be in for another long night. Summerland had done a good job on the penalty kill besides the Melnyk goal, and they finally got their only powerplay chance of the night at 8:45 when Dakota Kittle was sent off for slashing.

After a couple of grade-A quality scoring chances on the powerplay, Summerland continued to buzz and finally got a look they liked. After some good work from the forwards down below the goal line, Paulsen Lautard slid out to the side of the net and fed cross-crease to a waiting Mills, who had the entire net to slide a puck into.

Mills' 2nd of the game would stand as the winner, though the intensity didn't do anything but pick up after the Steam's regular season leading scorer gave them the lead with 6;56 to play. Kelowna came back with a push, and even got a powerplay with :47 on the clock, but were unable to beat Brett Huber with the equalizer.




The win for Summerland means they're off to Round 2 for the first time in franchise history. In round 2 they'll find the league champion Osoyoos Coyotes awaiting them. They were unsuccessful in beating the 'Yotes in the Regular Season, going 0-6-1-1 with their best result being a 2-2 tie on January 27th.

It's sure to be a dandy of a series and it gets underway Monday, March 2nd at 7:35pm from the Sun Bowl in the heart of the Desert.