Sports

Knights storm Coyotes 7-2

North Okanagan Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette was looking for someone to step into the starting netminder role, and Austin Buzzell staked his claim Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.

Buzzell, a 19-year-old Calgary product who started the season with Saskatchewan’s Yorkton Junior A Terriers, recorded 28 saves as the Knights thrashed the Osoyoos Coyotes 7-2 in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action.

He is the second goalie to be picked up by the 15-7-0-1 Knights in two weeks as Mallette recently plucked Matthew Mitchell from the VIJHL Comox Valley Glacier Kings.

“I’m looking for a guy to take the reigns, and last night was a good start for Buzzell,” said Mallette.

“With him being 19, it’s a make-or-break year for him and he’ll be put in a position where he’ll be playing.”

Tanner Burns (15th goal) and Morgan Johnston (11th) powered the Knights’ attack with two goals apiece.

“When he’s got a couple seconds in that high slot, he can make goalies look silly. He can pick some corners,” said Mallette, of Burns.

Johnston crashed the net for his first goal, and buried a cross-crease one-timer feed from Owen Barker on the second.

The Yotes (13-10) opened the scoring on a goal by Austin Lee, but Matty Saharchuk (10th) responded for North Okanagan with 38 seconds to play in the period.

“Started off the first period quite scrambly,” said Mallette. “We were fortunate to get that late goal because Osoyoos was taking it to us.”

Connor Richards (3rd) and Brett Hawrys (6th) rounded out the Knights’ scoring. Darren Martin had the other Osoyoos tally.

“A lot of our goals in the third period were odd-man rushes, guys making plays and not giving the goalie a chance,” said Mallette, who credited his “so-called” fourth line of Barker, Johnson and Anthony Ruggiero for providing plenty of jump.

“That line was fantastic. It allowed us to roll four lines,” he said.

Barker added further spark by buckling Brett Anderson in a late second-period scrap.

“It’s the first fight where I really saw him open up and unleash,” said Mallette.

“You don’t like to see that (injuries), but you’re glad your players is not on the receiving end of it.”

The scrap came on the faceoff after Alex Grupe challenged Knights’ captain Steve Pantazopoulos to a fight.

The Knights entertain the red-hot Castelgar Rebels (15-4-3) in a 2 p.m. matinee today at Nor-Val.

 

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