For the second straight game, North Okanagan Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette shortened his bench.
The message was intended mainly for his defencemen, who did little to support netminder Dustin Nikkel in a 4-2 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League loss to the Sicamous Eagles Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
“The forwards are doing their job; the defence is letting me down. They’re too soft in front of the net and they’re fishing for pucks when they should be putting guys on the ground,” said Mallette.
“It could have been worse with some of the giveaways we had, but Dustin came up with some great saves.”
After Brendon Wilde put Sicamous on the board midway through the first period, the Knights responded in the second when defenceman Thomas Swales fired a point shot that may have been deflected by Mateja Leko past Aaron Brandoli.
Brandoli, a Vernon product, recorded 31 saves for the win.
The Eagles stormed back in front on goals 34 seconds apart, with Nikkel making the initial save and Sicamous burying the rebounds.
Singles less than a minute apart in the third frame by the Eagles’ Jagger Bowles and Leko completed the offence in front of 140 fans.
“Our forwards were in their zone dictating the play a lot of the time. We had ample opportunity to equal the score and maybe even take the lead, but we didn’t,” said Mallette.
The 4-3 Knights began a four-game road schedule Saturday night against the Chase Heat.
In other Okanagan-Shuswap Conference play Friday night, Vernon’s Ethan Kalugin and Armstrong’s Owen Barker recorded singles as the Heat fell 5-3 to the host Kamloops Storm at McArthur Park Arena.
Ryan Scheidt, another Vernon native, added an assist.
Former Knight Colin Minardi fired a goal and three helpers as his hometown Summerland Steam double the Kelowna Chiefs 8-4.
Phil Bamber, a late cut by the Vipers, had two assists for Kelowna.
The Penticton Lakers caged the Princeton Posse 5-2, while the Beaver Valley Nitehawks clipped the Osoyoos Coyotes 6-2.
ICE CHIPS: With Swales getting the call to play with the BCHL Vernon Vipers Saturday night, Mallette welcomed Vernon minor hockey product Nathan Browne to the lineup for their game against the Heat Saturday night.