The reason the Kelowna Chiefs are likely to stand pat on trade deadline this week was on full display Saturday at the Rutland Arena.
A well-balanced offensive attack and a solid defensive effort led to a 5-0 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League win over the visiting Penticton Lakers. Combined with a 5-4 overtime win in Princeton on Friday against the host Posse, the latest victory moved the Chiefs (23-13-1-0) to within a point of Princeton (23-11-0-2) in the Okanagan Division.
"Unless a top-flight player falls out the sky on Thursday (deadline) - we don't expect to make any moves," said Grant Sheridan, the Chiefs' general-manager and assistant coach. "We're very happy with the personnel we have and we're comfortable taking this team into the latter part of the regular season and into the playoffs."
About the only concern for the Chiefs in the early going this season was their lack of secondary scoring. While the top line of Jordan Salahor (54 points in 33 games â€š tied for the league lead), Nick Josephs (47/26) and Scott Renner (25/24) or Kyle Clerke (38/33) has been consistently productive, the drop-off has been dramatic through the rest of the lineup.
On Saturday, the Chiefs again got their fair share of output from the No 1 unit, as Josephs and Clerke both scored. But they also got a two-goal effort from 16-year-old Mitchell Barker and got a goal and an assist from Jagger Bowles, playing in only his eighth game since recovering from a broken thumb. The two are skating alongside Brady Mende on the team's "second" line.
So, with Renner expected back in the lineup Jan. 18 after sitting out a 12-game suspension, the Chiefs' depth is on the verge of being stronger than at any point this season.
Meanwhile, the Kelowna goaltending appears to be solid. Tyler O'Donnell, who was used sparingly in December while rookie teammate Kenny Fitzgerald was on a tear, stopped all 25 shots against Penticton for his second shutout of the season and moved into the top 10 in KIJHL goaltending stats with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
Fitzgerald remains in fourth spot with 2.44 and .912 marks.
On Friday Fitzgerald was selected the third star of the game against Princeton, stopping all six shots he faced in the overtime period and 33 overall.
Salahor, returning to the Chiefs' lineup after missing four games with a concussion, scored the winning goal in OT. He also assisted on goals by Clerke and Barker, while Bryce Koch and Bowles rounded out the Kelowna scoring.
Princeton forced overtime by scoring with 1:23 left in regulation time.
The Chiefs are back in league action on Friday when they travel to Armstrong to take on the North Okanagan Knights. The next home game for the Chiefs is Jan. 18 when they play host to the Princeton Posse.