North Okanagan Knights marching
They shut out the league’s premier team and they’re rolling on a five-game winning streak with the playoffs on the horizon.
The North Okanagan Knights appear poised for a long post-season run after grounding the Nelson Leafs 3-0 in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League play Sunday afternoon at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
The Knights, who brushed back the Revelstoke Grizzlies 6-4 Saturday night at the Forum, are 26-11-1-2 atop the Doug Birks Division of the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference. The second-place Sicamous Eagles are three points back and have three games in hand. The Birds have three games left versus the Knights.
Stopping Nelson, who lead the league with 28 wins, was a sweet way for the Knights to finish a 3-0 weekend.
“They’re a good forechecking team with a quick transition,” said Knights’ captain Steve Pantazopoulos. “It seemed like we kind of felt them out in the first period and then took over. We work well down low in the offensive zone and we did that in the second and third periods.”
Pantazopoulos scored his seventh of the season, midway through the opening period, on a breakaway. Matty Saharchuk and Derek Andrews earned assists.
“I went high, glove,” chuckled Pantazopoulos, a 20-year-old from Kelowna. “I just took what the goalie gave me.”
D-man Mac Ferner, with his sixth, from Saharchuk and Dryden Profeit, and call-up Curtis Sexsmith, with a beauty backhander for his second, from Brett Hawrys and Mat Lambert, completed the Knights’ offence in the third. Austin Buzzell recorded 30 stops for the win.
In Revy, the Knights got 2+1 from Hawrys (he has 12 snipes), 1+2 from Ferner and other goals from Saharchuk, Morgan Johnston and Lambert. Pantazopoulos pocketed a pair of helpers.
Vernon Midget Tier 1 Vipers’ forward Blaine Caton played all weekend for the Knights and picked up an assist in Revelstoke.
The Grizzlies, who are 13 points behind North Okanagan, got offence from Darnel St. Pierre, Austin Donaldson, TJ Christensen and Jordan Furlane. Each team had 39 shots with Buzzell going the distance and Vernon products Conrad McMillan and Aaron Brandoli sharing duties for Revelstoke.
The Knights were without d-man Nathan Browne of Vernon (concussion) and forward Carson Bolduc (broken ankle). They plucked 19-year-old F Brandon Shirley from the Golden Rockets at the carding deadline. Shirley, a Salmon Arm product, had four goals and six points in 29 games with the Rockets.
The Knights host the Grand Forks Border Bruins (15-0 losers to Beaver Valley Nitehawks on Sunday) Friday night and visit the Chase Heat Saturday.
Rookie d-man Ryan Beach of Vernon has seven assists and 22 penalty minutes with the Heat.