Special teams and a special performance by Aidan Bar-Lev-Wise earned the Kelowna Chiefs a tighter grip on their Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff series with the Summerland Steam on Tuesday.
Bar-Lev-Wise scored three times — twice on the powerplay — and the team added a shorthanded goal as the visiting Chiefs shut out the Steam 5-0 at the Summerland Arena.
With the dominant victory, the Chiefs grabbed a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Okanagan Division semifinal and have the opportunity to wrap up the series on Thursday at the Rutland Arena (7 p.m.).
For Bar-Lev-Wise, it was his first hat trick performance and only his second multi-goal game of the season, but it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
While the Chiefs held a one-game lead in the series going into Tuesday’s game, they had struggled to keep the upper hand on the stubborn Steam, who they had dominated in their last three games leading up to the playoffs (outscoring them 29-8). Summerland won the first game of the series 5-4 in Kelowna, while the Chiefs squeezed out a 5-4 win in the second game and had to go into overtime to edge the Steam 2-1 in Summerland on Monday.
“We were definitely happier about this game,” said Chiefs’ head coach, Jason Tansem, who graded the team’s performance the night before as only C+. “The boys played hard for most of the game and stayed committed to our plan.”
He was especially pleased with the Chiefs’ second straight perfect night on the penalty kill (Steam 0-for-7) that included a shorthanded marker by Kelowna minor hockey product, Hayden Courtney, in the second period.
“We made some adjustments (to the penalty kill) after the first game and the guys are definitely getting better at it,” said Tansem.
Bar-Lev-Wise opened the scoring just 3:36 into the game, notching what would stand up as the winning goal by tapping in a nifty cross-ice pass from captain Brett Witala. Bar-Lev-Wise, a 19-year-old Burnaby product, who rejoined the team in November, added a second goal on the powerplay early in the middle period and capped the hat with the game’s only goal of the third with a shot bar-down.
Tansem said it was nice to see Bar-Lev-Wise be rewarded for his hard work.
“While he’s a very skilled guy, his tenacity is his strength.When he forechecks, he gets the puck back nearly every time.”
Devin Sutton rounded out the Kelowna scoring with a goal in a 2-0 first period while Brody Dale continued his torrid productive pace with three assists and moved into a tie for first place in the KIJHL’s playoff scoring lead with 10 points on four goals and six assists in four games.
Meanwhile, Chiefs’ goaltender, Joseph McLeod, stopped all 23 Summerland shots he faced to record his first shutout in the playoffs.
“It was a solid game for Joey, no doubt,” said Tansem. “He seemed so calm and made everything look routine, even on a spectacular breakaway save in the third period.”
The tension from four games in five night between the two teams was evident in the second period as two players from each team were handed five minutes for fighting while two more from both clubs were given game misconducts.
The two teams will get a chance to cool off today before resuming the series in Kelowna on Thursday. A sixth game, if necessary, is scheduled for Friday in Summerland, and a seventh game would be played at the Rutland Arena on Saturday.
Waiting for the winner of the Kelowna-Summerland series are the Okanagan Division’s first-place Osoyoos Coyotes, who completed a four-game sweep of the fourth-place Princeton Posse on Tuesday with a 4-3 win in Princeton.