Morning Star Staff
Just when the North Okanagan Knights thought they might have a little something to cheer about this Christmas, the Kelowna Chiefs played the Grinch.
Leading 5-1 after 20 minutes, the Knights coughed up five unanswered goals to fall 6-5 to the Chiefs in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League play Saturday night at Rutland Arena.
“I only broke a couple of sticks Saturday; it was pretty tough,” said Knights’ head coach Jim Armstrong.
“It’s disappointing because we played so well in the first and outshot them. We stuck to the game-plan and did everything properly. We were pressuring and taking the middle of the ice away.”
Dustin Vasil, with his first two goals of the season, led North Okanagan (5-28-1-2) in the first period. Logan Geefs and Austin Fournier, both recording their 10th snipes, and Kelsey Byrne, with his second, completed the Knights’ attack in front of netminder Mitch Profeit.
Dakota Kittle (6th) responded for the 14-18-2-1 Chiefs in the first, on a powerplay.
Kelowna cut the lead to two with singles from Josh Baird (3rd) and Carter Melnyk (6th). Josh Kobelka, with his 16th and 17th snipes, and Jonathan Lee, firing his 14th, capped the comeback.
“In the second, we missed a couple of chances with some open nets and we let them back into the game,” said Armstrong.
Former Knight Brady Lenardon, traded to Kelowna earlier this month for netminder Josh Shank, recorded 24 stops for his second win. Profeit made 47 saves.
Feeling a change was needed, Armstrong shuffled his lineup a few weeks ago, releasing forwards Scott Latwat and Sean Emmerson, and d-man Liam Sallows-Cromarty, and bringing in Vasil from the Chase Heat.
“We just felt the team needed a shakeup,” said Armstrong, who expects to announce another player acquisition in the next week. “Since the releases and the additions, we have been playing much better.”
Armstrong, who credited the hustle of Vasil, Byrne and Colin Robin against the Chiefs, told his guys to take their minds off hockey for a couple of days, and instead unwind with friends and family.
“After that, we’ve gotta get in the gym and let’s get a push going and see where we end up,” he said.