North Okanagan Knights open post-season

Home-ice advantage can be a blessing, but the North Okanagan Knights realize being top dog comes with added pressure.

The Knights, winners of the Doug Birks Division, will host the No. 4 seeded Kamloops Storm in Games 1 and 2 of a best-of-seven Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff set tonight and Saturday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre. Both games of the opening-round series are 7:30 starts.

“It’s a dreaded match,” said Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette. “It’s a one versus four and they’ve got nothing to lose.”

North Okanagan heads into the postseason with a healthy roster, and Mallette says as long as they play their style, the matchup will be in their favour.

“Can’t put too much emphasis on what they’re going to do. We’ve just got to focus on our systems and know what we do well.”

The No. 2 Sicamous Eagles are battling the No. 3 Revelstoke Grizzlies in the other Doug Birks first-round series.

Meanwhile, the Vernon Vipers enter the BCHL weekend five points out of the final Interior playoff spot. Win both their games and the Snakes will be one point back of the fourth-place Salmon Arm SilverBacks.

One of those matchups is a date with the 21-23-2-4 ‘Backs tonight at the Shaw Centre. The Langley Rivermen (20-23-1-5) visit Vernon (17-23-1-8) Saturday at Wesbild Centre.

“A lot of people had written us off and we clawed our way back,” said Vernon head coach Jason Williamson. “We’ve cut it (lead) in half and have a game in hand. We’ve just got to take care of our own business.”

The Trail Smoke Eaters moved into a share of fourth with Salmon Arm after they grounded the Merritt Centennials 2-1 Wednesday night at Cominco Arena.

The 23-27-0-2 Smokies have played three more games than Vernon and wrap up the regular season with a pair of doubleheaders against the first-place Penticton Vees (34-13-0-3).

SNAKE BITES: Williamson said forward Braedan Russell will miss the weekend action with a separated shoulder...Vernon native Curtis Lazar netted his 33rd WHL goal of the season as the Edmonton Oil Kings fell 3-2 to the Regina Pats Wednesday at Rexall Place.


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