The Princeton Posse got off to a sluggish start in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s first playoff round of the 2022-23 season.
Following banner wins for the division and the league, The Posse faced Summerland Steam, fourth place divisional rivals in game one, Friday, Feb. 17, and just managed to scrape by their opponents on home ice.
“A little bit of nerves played into it,” said head coach Mark Readman, “and a lack of attention to detail. The boys did a good job of bouncing back for game two.”
Given its unprecedented success all year, Readman said the team faces unique pressure and scrutiny. “The entire season was in anticipation of the playoffs…Last year we were an underdog and this year we are the top dog, and we have everything to lose so obviously we need to play the right way.”
Giving the Steam its due, Readman added that Friday night “Summerland absolutely were prepared, and they came to play.”
The Posse scored early in the first frame, courtesy of Lucas Sadownyk on assists from Sean Mitchell and Dayton Nelson.
However, Summerland responded twice in the following three minutes, with a goal from Keenan Conn off the stick of Ryan Donovan, and then by Jacob Rausch who took advantage of a power play.
Nelson, helped by Brayden Bablitz and Sadownyk for Princeton, evened the score in the opening minutes of the second frame, but the team fell behind again when the Steam’s Cassidy Hank found the mark shorthanded on an assist from Simon Bowland.
After that the period was all Posse, with goals from Brennan Waterson (Nelson, Ty Russell), Anmol Garcha (Tyson Horiachka, Ty Olsen), both on the power play, and Horiachka cementing the lead with an unassisted effort.
Luke Rothfos (Cole Waldbilling, Austin Cameron) mounted a comeback for Summerland at the start of the third, but Princeton clung on for a 5-4 win.
Princeton outshot Summerland 45-27, seriously testing Steam netminder Ben Lewis.
The Posse’s Peyton Trzaska made 24 saves.
Waldbillig was named frst star for Summerland, and Princeton’s Horiachka was second star.
The second game of the series began much the same way. Nelson opened the scoring for Princeton (Sadownyk, Bablitz) and Summerland came back with two goals scored by Rothfos (Austin Cameron, Kyle Tuttle) and Kent Moors (Sam Dixon, Rothfos).
The Posse picked up its own steam power for the balance of the contest, with a five-goal streak constructed by Russell (Isaac Thomas, Mitchell), Jake McCulley, (Jonathan Ward, Gould), Nelson (Bablitz, Mitchell), Nelson again for the hat-trick, (Bablitz, Thomas) and Horiachka (Garcha, Olsen.)
The Posse outshot Summerland 56-30. Ben Lewis and Rogan Bacon split the net for the Steam and Net Glenn made 28 saves for Princeton.
The first star was awarded to Summerland’s Kent Moors, while Dayton Nelson was the second star for Princeton.
Games three and four of the best-of-seven series take place Tuesday, Feb. 21, and Wednesday, Feb. 22, in Summerland.