Knights ground Eagles for 8th straight win
Riding a season-high eight-game win streak, the North Okanagan Knights are the hottest team in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
Kris Mallette’s Knights remained undefeated in 2013 with a 4-2 win over the Sicamous Eagles in a Doug Birks Division showdown Wednesday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
The division-leading Knights (29-11-1-2) did just enough to earn wins against lower-seeded opposition last weekend, but Mallette knew it would take a better effort against the second-place Eagles (25-10-2-4).
“The guys responded extremely well,” said Mallette. “It was one of the most important games of the season. You do the math and it can make or break where we finish for playoff seeding.”
North Okanagan will face an equally difficult opponent when they battle the Beaver Valley Nitehawks (28-12-3-1) tonight in Armstrong. Terry Jones’ goal-happy Hawks lead the KIJHL with 201 goals and a plus-77 differential. The Knights are fifth at plus-44.
North Okanagan’s top line of Matty Saharchuk, Derek Andrews and captain Steve Pantazopoulos carried the offence Wednesday, with Saharchuk collecting his team-leading 22nd and 23rd goals.
Of the second goal, Mallette said: “One-on-one, he just buried his shoulder and carried it across the crease. It was a thing of beauty, going to the outside and powering to the net.
Pantazopoulos added three helpers, d-man David London earned his first snipe on a pointshot and Colton Thibault netted his 11th. Singles by the Eagles’ Michael Bell (2nd goal)and Corbin Marcotte (14th), with eight second to play in the first period, had the score tied 2-2 at the break.
Dustin Nikkel recorded 24 saves in his first start since he was released by the BCHL Salmon Arm SilverBacks. Kris Joyce was pulled in favour of Jack Surgenor (12 saves) after allowing three goals on a dozen shots.
ICE CHIPS: Michael Hails is the Vancouver Island Junior B loop’s Player of the Week. The Vernon product helped the Comox Valley Glacier Kings split a weekend home-and-home with the Nanaimo Buccaneers, posting a 1.00 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. He is 6-4 with an overall GAA of 2.71. The Kings are second in the North Island Division at 18-18-2.