It was far from the lopsided affair when they faced the Chase Heat in exhibition action Monday night, but the North Okanagan Knights still found a way to get it done.
Vernon’s Blaine Caton collected the overtime winner on a tremendous solo effort to give the Knights a 3-2 win over the Heat in their Kootenay International Junior Hockey League regular-season opener Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
Caton, 16, walked off the sidewall, deked two Heat defenders and then outwaited netminder Michael Byer before scoring 49 seconds into the second OT.
“It went a little bit farther than we were anticipating, but our kids were resilient,” said Shawn Webb, picking up his first career KIJHL win as head coach.
“Them tieing up the game late didn’t phase us. We didn’t sit back, and we came at them hard in overtime.”
Missing several players due to injury (Vernon’s Logan Geefs) and carding issues (Victoria’s Ryan Kelm and Fort St. James’ Collin Robin), the Knights’ dressed just 16 skaters, but managed to outshoot Chase 52-24.
Webb moved defenceman Austin Garrington up front for a spell to reinforce the forwards corps.
“Their goalie played very well,” said Webb. “We carried the majority of the play and defended well. Most of their shots were from the outside.”
Vernon product Mat Lambert opened the scoring for the Knights, converting a rebound from a sharp angle during a first-period powerplay. Reece Steenson and Mat Halvorson (Vernon) drew assists.
The Heat drew even on a man-advantage goal by Kaleb Boyle with 5:40 to go in the first.
Tanner Burns (Vernon), assisted by Caton and Lambert, put North Okanagan ahead on another powerplay in the second frame, beating Byer up high with a one-timer from the slot.
Jay Sidhu forced OT with 2:29 to go in the third period, capitalizing on a Knights’ defensive miscue.
The Knights visited the Princeton Posse Saturday night.