North Okanagan Knights goalie Caedon Bellmann, poking the puck away from Wyatt Wong of the Osoyoos Coyotes, is 3-o as a starter since signing with the club. His play, and the play of his teammates, has moved the Knights into a KIJHL playoff spot. (Facebook photo)

Bellmann, ex-NHLer boost North Okanagan Knights

KIJHL: 17-year-old Spallumcheen goalie 3-0 as a starter; Dean McAmmond named new head coach

Caedon Bellmann hasn’t lost. Neither has new head coach Dean McAmmond.

And the North Okanagan Knights are the beneficiaries.

The Knights have moved into a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff spot after taking two of three weekend games, and three of their last four following a coaching change.

North Okanagan (13-22-0-1) moved into fourth place in the Okanagan Shuswap Division, one point ahead of the Princeton Posse (11-23-1-0), after beating the Coyotes 5-1 in Osoyoos Sunday – making former NHL forward Dean McAmmond a winner in his North Okanagan coaching debut – and the hometown Sicamous Eagles 2-1 in overtime Saturday.

RELATED: New coaches guide North Okanagan Knights to win

McAmmond takes over from Liam Mconie and Graham Watkins, who remain with the team as assistant coaches, along with fellow Knights alumnus Joey Guerra. McConie and Watkins guided the Knights to a 2-1 mark after John Van Horlick was relieved of his duties last week.

“We needed a change,” said Knights general manager Dallas Keller of the move to replace Van Horlick, who, said Keller, will stay with the organization as a scout and consultant. “Dean had been doing some work for us but had some prior commitments and couldn’t take over the team until Sunday.”

Bellmann, signed to the team last week, picked up the wins in goal Saturday and Sunday, and was player of the game in Sicamous after a 30-save performance. The Spallumcheen product made 29 saves against the Coyotes, is 3-0 as a starter, and has beaten the third-place Coyotes twice in four days.

The team has one player card remaining and are on the hunt for a veteran goalie. Austin Madge left the team a week ago.

“Caedon has been amazing,” said Keller. “We didn’t expect anything out of him, we thought there would be a learning curve with him, but he’s been lights out. He’s attended our spring camps and tryouts since he was 14 or 15 so he’s earned this chance.”

North Okanagan visits Princeton Friday. The Knights are three points behind Osoyoos. The Coyotes relieved head coach and general manager Mark Chase of his duties Monday.

Jett Saharchuk, Kevin-Thomas Walters and player of the game Alec McLeod staked the Knights to a 3-0 lead with 15 minutes left in regulation time Sunday. After the Coyotes finally cracked Bellmann on a powerplay, Ethan Matchim restored the three-goal lead on the man advantage at 9:18.

Ty Tippett rounded out the scoring with a powerplay marker with 3:54 remaining. Former Knights goalie Daniel Paul was tagged with the loss in goal for Osoyoos.

In Sicamous, Saharchuk scored at 2:29 of the second overtime period to give the Knights the win. Walters tied the game at 7:30 of the third period, set up by Saharchuk and McLeod.

The Doug Birks Division-leading Revelstoke Grizzlies came to Armstrong Friday and left with a 5-2 win over the Knights.

Trailing 3-0 early in the second period, goals in the middle frame by Tyler Olsen and McLeod four minutes into the third cut the Grizzlies lead to 3-2. Revelstoke made it 4-2 with 7:45 left and added an empty-net goal.

Affiliate goalie Cayden Hamming of Armstrong got the call in goal and made 26 saves for the Knights.

North Okanagan wraps up its four-game road swing Saturday in Summerland. Next home game for the Knights is Friday, Jan. 25, against the Posse at Nor-Val Sports Centre.

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