The Kelowna Chiefs and Summerland Steam will decide their Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff series tonight (7 p.m.) at the Rutland Arena.
Backed by the stellar goaltending of Matthew Huber, the Steam pulled even at three games apiece with the Chiefs in the best-of-seven Okanagan Division semifinal series with a 3-1 victory on home ice on Friday.
For a second straight night, the Chiefs outshot (33-26) and outchanced the Steam, but couldn’t finish against the 21-year-old Calgary native, selected the home star of the game. A night earlier in Kelowna, the 21-year-old stopped 48 of 50 shots in leading his team to a 4-2 win.
Down 3-1 in the series, the Steam have clawed their way back to give themselves the opportunity to take the series and move on against the division’s first-place Osoyoos Coyotes.
Having won two of three games in the series at the Rutland Arena, it appears the Chiefs’ home-ice advantage is of little consequence and has no effect on the Steam — or Huber.
Chiefs’ head coach, Jason Tansem, had little to say after Friday’s game other than he felt his team played well, but just couldn’t score.
“I thought we made it easy for him (Huber),” said Tansem. “And I thought we deserved a better outcome. They (the Steam) didn’t create much in the game other than taking advantage of our own mistakes.”
His thoughts on tonight’s final game of the series?
Simply: “Who wouldn’t take a winner-take-all game?”
The Steam, third-place finishers in the regular season — one point back of the Chiefs — certainly will. Outscored 29-8 by Kelowna in their final three regular-season games, the Steam were considered decisive underdogs in the series.
And while they’ve gotten the goaltending they've needed in the playoffs, the experience and scoring touch of 21-year-old Scott Robinson has also been a major factor in the past two games.
A native of England, but a graduate of the Okanagan Academy in Penticton, the 6’6”, 240-pound forward scored all four goals for the Steam on Thursday and sparked his team with the lone goal of the first period on Friday.
He also assisted on what would be the winning goal midway through the second period — the Steam’s first powerplay marker in the past 19 tries against the Chiefs and goaltender Joseph McLeod.
Morey Babakaiff rounded out the Summerland scoring with 5:21 remaining in the second period while Brett Witala was the lone Chiefs scorer, getting a powerplay marker early in the middle frame.