Skill and experience shut down youthful exuberance.
The veteran-laden Osoyoos Coyotes finished off the first-round, best-of-seven Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff series with the North Okanagan Knights Saturday at the Nor-Val Sports Centre, skating away with a 4-1 win and a 4-0 series sweep.
“The kids did the best they could and competed to the best of their ability,” said Knights’ head coach/GM Bryant Perrier.
“But we played a team that had more skill than us and were more experienced. Give them credit. They stepped up another level. We matched the intensity but could not match the level of skill they had.”
Game star Carter Shannon scored twice for the Coyotes, who built a 4-0 lead in the clincher before Austin Fournier replied unassisted with 2:27 left in the game for North Okanagan.
League scoring champion Rainer Glimpel and Hunter Johnston also scored for the Coyotes. Goalie Daniel Paul was named the Knights’ game star for the third time in the series, stopping 42 shots.
Perrier, who completed the first of a three-year deal with the Knights, reflected on the end of the year compared to when he came to Armstrong, 21 days before the start of the season.
“You asked me if I would be happy if this team made the playoffs and I said it would be a miracle,” said Perrier. “We were limited in our ability, limited in our recruiting and we didn’t know what kind of players we had coming back.
“So give the players credit for getting into the playoffs. There isn’t one guy on the team who did not improve immensely, and that’s a good sign of what we’re trying to build here.”
The Knights lose only three players to graduation: leading scorer Graham Watkins, F Dallas Keller and D Liam Molloy.
“All three were a pleasure to coach,” said Perrier. “Dallas provided grit and determination, and a good defensive style of play. He was a good communicator with the coaching staff and players, forthright and to the point which every team needs. Graham was our most skilled player and we’re thankful we had him. He kind of fell out of the sky for us (Watkins moved to Enderby from Calgary in August). Molloy didn’t play for two years but came in because we were short on D. He ended up a utility player, in and out of the lineup but was a very good team player.”