North Okanangan Knights charge for first place

The North Okanagan Knights can secure first overall in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Doug Birks Division Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.

But they will have to go through the Sicamous Eagles to earn it.

With two regular-season tilts remaining, the 33-14-1-2 Knights lead the second-place Eagles (30-13-2-4) by three points. Sicamous has a game in hand and will be feeling confident after they outlasted the Knights 6-5 in a wild affair Saturday  night in the Shuswap.

North Okanagan closes the regular season Saturday against the Chase Heat (11-32-3-3). The Eagles are in Chase tonight, and wrap up their season by hosting the Heat Saturday night.

Trailing by three goals, the Eagles replied with four unanswered snipes, then gave up the lead again before putting the Knights away for good.

North Okanagan assistant coach Shawn Webb said a pair of Sicamous powerplay goals 11 seconds apart in the second period rattled the team.

“It was a sign of our youth,” said Webb. “The 5-on-3 goal they scored you could see the kids lost their focus and a mature team like Sicamous capitalized on us.

“The youth has the legs, the youth has the want but the youth doesn’t have the maturity to sit back and breathe. We forgot to breathe for about six minutes.”

Owen Barker, with his first of the season, and Colton Thibault, with his 14th, had the Knights up by a pair at the break. Connor Richards (9th goal) made it 3-0 a minute into the second period.

Michael Bell started the Sicamous comeback with his third of the year. And after the Knights’ Anthony Ruggiero picked up an extra minor for removing Brin Feledichuk’s helmet in a scrap, and with Dryden Profeit serving a slashing minor, the Eagles went to work on special teams.

Corbin Marcotte (18th), at 5-on-3, and Brendan Devries (27th), on the remaining powerplay, had the game tied. Dominick Hodges (15th) gave the visitors a brief lead, but quick tallies by Matty Saharchuk (31st) and Profeit (2nd) put the Knights back in front.

Devries (28th) and Hodges (16th), each with their second of the night, sealed the win.

“As much as a loss hurts, there was a lot learned from that going into the playoffs,” said Webb.

“We’re excited about where we sit. It’s still in our hands to be first in our division.”

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