It took him a game to get settled in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, and once he did, Tanner Cochrane delivered in a big way for the North Okanagan Knights.
Cochrane, a 20-year-old forward from Kamloops, formerly of the BCHL Chilliwack Chiefs, scored the winner and added some insurance as the Knights brushed back the host Summerland Steam 5-3 Tuesday night.
Knights’ head coach Shawn Webb said Cochrane may have been guilty of underestimating the league in his debut last Friday against Kelowna.
“He was trying to do too much,” said Webb. “We just had to get him to relax and play the game.
“In the BCHL, he’s a grind-it-out guy. Here, he’ll have the chance to put up some points.”
Webb grabbed Cochrane from the Golden Rockets, who held his KIJHL rights, for future considerations. The 6-foot, 175-pound forward had 6-19-25 and 162 penalty minutes in 87 career BCHL games.
North Okanagan’s other Tanner – Burns – recorded the equalizer midway through the third period after the 11-11-1-1 Steam had rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take the lead. Linemates Mat Lambert and Brett Hawrys set him up with a gorgeous tic-tac-toe play.
Burns, a 20-year-old Vernon native, left the game after crashing into the boards and will be out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
Reece Steen, with his first KIJHL goal, put the Knights (10-11-0-1) on the board 9:16 into the first period on a seeing-eye point shot that beat Brett Huber five-hole. Vernon’s Logan Geefs (4th) roofed a backhander from in close before the intermission.
The Steam responded midway through period two on a snipe by Paulsen Lautard (9th). They drew even on a 5-on-3 goal by Dylan Burton (3rd) with 5:31 to go in the frame, and took the lead early in the third period when Daylan Robertson (8th) scored again on the powerplay.
North Okanagan’s TJ Christensen (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and Summerland’s Olli Dickson (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) entertained the crowd with a spirited heavyweight tilt late in the second frame. Webb credited his captain for reading the game and picking the right time to spark his team.
“He addressed our team’s need at that moment and got the troops riled up,” said Webb.
Knights’ netminder Zach Dyment recorded 36 saves for his fifth win. Huber made 27 stops.
Webb has moved smooth-skating forward Morgan Johnston back to defence for a trial period.
“He’s aggressive, he’s strong and that’s something that’s been lacking from our back end.”
The Knights, who are 3-7 in their last 10 outings, host the 13-11 Osoyoos Coyotes tonight (7:30) at Nor-Val Sports Centre. They visit the Sicamous Eagles (9-12-0-2) Wednesday.