Osoyoos Coyotes halt North Okanagan Knights

Any time you score 10 goals in a pair of Kootenay International Junior Hockey League weekend games, chances are you’re going to succeed.

The problem for the North Okanagan Knights is nine of the 10 came in a single game. In the other one, the Knights struggled to finish as they fell 3-1 to the host Osoyoos Coyotes Saturday night at the Sun Bowl.

It wasn’t for a lack of opportunity, said Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette.

“We missed legitimately four or five breakaways in the first period alone. They were extremely aggressive with finishing their checks and we were creating so many odd-man rushes.

“Their goalie (Jessie Gordichuk, 38 saves, first star) played well and we could not capitalize on our scoring opportunities.”

The Knights, who (32-13-1-2) hold a share of second overall with the Nelson Leafs (32-13-2-1), face a pair of Doug Birks Divisional games this weekend. They entertain Kevin Kraus’ Revelstoke Grizzlies (24-18-3-1) Friday at Nor-Val Sports Centre, and visit the Sicamous Eagles (28-13-2-4) Saturday in the Shuswap.

With the Knights down 2-0 late in the second, Brett Hawrys (14th goal) finally converted on one of those breakaway attempts, burying a shorthanded goal, assisted by Colton Thibault.

Mallette said the Knights’ defence got caught napping on Coyotes’ first goal, an open-net tap-in for Evan Last (22nd) after netminder Dustin Nikkel made a solid first save.

A puck handling error by Nikkel (40 saves) led to Taylor Jordan’s shorthanded winner midway through the second period. Jordan (17th) knocked down the North Okanagan keeper’s clearance attempt and skated in alone on an empty net.

Troy Maclise added an insurance marker in the third period in support of Gordichuk.

North Okanagan’s powerplay went 0-for-7, the Coyotes’ 0-for-5.

“Our guys were buying in on the penalty kill, getting sticks in lanes and doing the little things,” said Mallette. “Come 5-on-5 we didn’t have that same intensity.”

Knights’ rookie Anothony Ruggerio sparked his team by taking on Osoyoos’ Brett Anderson in a third-period scrap, earning a knockdown on his opponent.

Meanwhile, the Eagles dumped the Grizzlies 2-1 in a Sunday matinee.

Vernon’s Aaron Brandoli earned third star for his 53-save showing for the Grizz.


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