Not only did the Kelowna Chiefs play "in the moment," they also put in a solid 60 minutes on Monday in a bounce-back victory over the Summerland Steam.
On the verge of letting their opening playoff series in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League get away from them, the Okanagan Division's first-place team
(35-15-1-1) pulled out a 6-1 win after being upset 4-2 in both of the opening two games on home ice this past weekend.
"We lost our focus and discipline in the first two games, but we got back to playing the way we had been leading up to the playoffs," Chiefs coach Ken Andrusiak said prior to the fourth game of the series scheduled for last night in Summerland.
"There were just too many distractions - awards ceremonies, injuries and undisciplined penalties - and our guys just didn't handle any of that very well."
Although still missing regulars due to injury, the Chiefs did have their top two producers in full gear on Monday, as Nick Josephs completed a natural hat trick and Jordan Salahor, the league's scoring champion who missed the second game of the series because of a suspension, helped set up all three.
Kelowna's top line was still missing winger Scott Renner (hip injury), but captain Kyle Clerke stepped in and played admirably.
Marshall Sidwell, coming back from an injury to his thumb, added back-to-back goals five minutes apart in the third period, while defenceman Connor Harding, a West Kelowna Minor Hockey Association midget call-up, scored his second goal in two games.
Kenny Fitzgerald went the distance in goal, stopping 22 of 23 Steam shots. The only shot to beat him came off the stick of Steve Semenoff on a power play.
He got the nod in goal after playing well in relief of Tyler O'Donnell in the middle period of the second game. The Burnaby native was expected to start again on Tuesday.
In fact, Andrusiak indicated he would keep the same entire lineup for the fourth game of the series that played so well on Monday.
The veteran coach was also planning to replicate his pre-game discourse that included reminding his players they are still far from moving on in the post-season - despite having what he feels is a better team than the fourth-place finishers in Summerland (21-28-1-2).
"I was hoping all the (11) guys who were around last year when we were the underdogs and got to the final would remember," stated Andrusiak, "that the playoffs are a whole different animal.
"But I guess they had to be reminded that we need to play in the moment. Summerland is playing well right now. To their credit, they've obviously been studying video because they tightened things up - especially in their own end - and they're not allowing much space out there.
"We needed to react better to how they're adapting."
The fifth game of the Okanagan Division semifinal is scheduled for tonight at Rutland Arena in Kelowna beginning at 7 p.m., while a sixth game, if necessary, will take place Saturday in Summerland. The seventh game would be played Sunday, March 3, back in Kelowna.
The winner of the series will meet the survivor of the other division semi involving the second-place Princeton Posse and third-place Osoyoos Coyotes. The latter were leading the series 2-1 going into Tuesday's matchup.
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