Jack Mills and Tyler Love embrace in the handshake line after Game 6 at the Rutland Arena on Tuesday Evening. Summerland won the game by a 3-0 score & the series 4-2. Photo Credit: Steve Dunsmoor / Dunsmoor Creative

Sweet, sweet irony. All series long between the Summerland Steam and the Kelowna Chiefs we talked on our broadcast and in this publication about Tyler Love being in the face of Jack Mills. All series we talked about Summerland playing a clean game and spending minimal time in the penalty box, and all series we talked about Steam players stepping up when it mattered the most.

All of that came together in Game 6 of the Okanagan Division Semi-Final for the Summerland Steam, and they were able to skate away with a 3-0 road shutout of the Kelowna Chiefs. In a series that swung wildly in what seemed like all directions, had it’s share of bad blood, and even a little drama, the result was six hard fought games between two bitter rivals that turned into GREAT hockey. It’s what you want to see from the KIJHL, a league that continues to grow both in the interest it generates and the number of players and staff it moves on to the next level.

Though it was a 3-0 shutout that ended the season for the Kelowna Chiefs and the first game of the six game series that was more than a one goal game (Game 3 had 2ENG), it took a perfect road game from the Summerland Steam to finish this thing off. It took a contribution from all 18 skaters dressed, as well as Matt Kostiw, who made 25 saves for his first KIJHL Playoff shutout.

The first period looked exactly like that of Game 5 the night before, except the Steam didn’t find themselves up 2-0. It was a 0-0 tie after a first period that saw Summerland dominate in both zone time and shots on goal, as they finished the frame up 10-4 on the shot clock. Both teams combined for just one power play in a first period that was the least physical of the entire series.

Summerland would get on the board just past the midway mark of the second period courtesy of Michael McEachern. McEachern notched his first of the playoffs with 8:24 remaining in the second period, picking up a rebound at the side of the net of Brady Lenardon and going top shelf over the sprawling Kelowna goaltender to give the Steam the lead.

McEachern would get at it again in the dying moments of the period, setting up Braden Eliuk with a pretty little pass from behind the net. Eliuk was able to deposit it into the net before Lenardon even knew where the puck was. Eliuk’s first of the playoffs is just one of many goals he’s scored inside the friendly (for him, anyway) confines of Rutland Arena this season. He loves to play there, and it benefited Summerland greatly in this game.

The Steam would ride the strength of those two goals into the third period, and would withstand some pushback from the Chiefs. Despite a valiant comeback effort putting 16 shots on net in the final frame, the Chiefs couldn’t beat Kostiw in the Summerland net. The 19-year-old native of Aurora, ON wasn’t tested with high quality scoring chances often in Game #6, but was sturdy as he needed to be. That was the case for Kostiw for much of the playoff series. He had to be solid, but wasn’t required to be SPECTACTULAR, which is what you want if you’re a goaltender.

He was a big factor for Summerland more-so off the ice than on it. There’s one instance in particular that stood out for me in Game 5, a must win for the Steam at home with the series tied at 2. After Summerland tied the game with 10:33 to go to eventually force overtime, Kostiw stepped into the middle of the pile of Steam players at the bench during intermission.

“I’m not letting one in, so you guys better go score one” – Matt Kostiw

They did that and the rest, they say, is history. The win propels the Steam to the second round, and a new nemesis that they’re going to have to do their homework on, the Osoyoos Coyotes. It will be the second year in a row that the Steam and the Coyotes meet in the Okanagan Division Final. Look for a preview sometime Wednesday or Thursday.

A huge congratulations goes out to the Kelowna Chiefs organization for another good season and another unbelievable playoff series. The Steam and the Chiefs put on a  great show when they go head to head, and this series was no exception. Both teams fought to the bitter end, and it was a lot of fun to follow. Also a huge thank you to the Voice of the Kelowna Chiefs, Justin McCartney, as well as the Chiefs volunteers and social media team, who are always A+ to work with.



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