The first period may have been a treat for 230 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League fans Friday night, but not for North Okanagan Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette.
He watched as the Knights abandoned their systems and tried to run-and-gun with the Sicamous Eagles in a seven-goal first period at Nor-Val Sports Centre, eventually falling 5-4 to end a six-game win streak.
The teams tangled again Saturday night at the Sicamous Recreation Complex.
“It shows Dustin Nikkel is human; four goals on 10 shots is very uncharacteristic of him,” said Mallette. “In his defence, we did a lot of standing around.
“It was probably entertaining for the fans, but as a I coach I was disappointed how we played that first period.”
Morgan Johnston, Tanner Burns and Colton Thibault clicked for the 7-2-0-1 Knights in the opening frame. Corbin Marcotte, Steven Powers, Matt Read and Kelyn Opel scored for the 6-0-0-2 Eagles. Read’s and Opel’s goals came just five seconds apart.
Mallette said the majority of the Sicamous goals resulted from neutral zone turnovers.
“It was just mental breakdowns on our part.”
The Knights equalized 1:20 into the second period on an Eagles’ own goal when a defenceman attempted to pass behind his net and instead banked it off goalie Kris Joyce’s pad and in (Knights’ forward Mat Lambert got the credit).
Opel netted the winner with six minutes left in regulation.
“We responded better (in the second period), but it’s too little too late,” said Mallette. “I hope it humbles them and we come out to play (Saturday night).
“When we’re playing the right way, there’s not too many teams that can compete with us.”
Zack Dueck was solid in relief of Nikkel after taking over midway through the first period. He allowed one goal on 36 shots.
Joyce (23 saves) also relieved Eagles’ starter Jack Surgenor (five saves) in the opening frame.