Chris Solecki got the best of his former team as the host Fernie Ghostriders slammed the North Okanagan Knights 4-0 in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action Friday night at Memorial Arena.
The 19-year-old netminder, who racked up 10 wins in 55 games over two seasons with the Knights, recorded 19 stops for his second shutout of the season in front of 500 fans.
The Ghostriders, first in the Eddie Mountain division at 17-4-0-1, came out strong, getting the opening goal from Stefan Seel less than two minutes into the game.
A shorthanded tally by Andrew White had Fernie up by a pair heading into the first intermission.
Knights’ head coach said his team was caught off guard by the Ghostriders’ physical play, and by the referee’s willingness to keep the whistle in his pocket.
“It was the most scared I’ve seen our team play all year. They could have said ‘Boo,’ and we would have given them the puck,” said Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words because I know what they’re capable of. That’s the most disappointing thing.”
Fernie added a pair of goals late in the second period to complete the scoring – one by R.T. Rice with three minutes remaining, the other from Seel a minute later.
While largely disappointed with the Knights’ effort, Mallette singled out the play of 16-year-old Quinton Sutherland and 17-year-old Armstrong product Brett Hawrys.
“They were our two best players; two young kids going out there and working extremely hard,” said Mallette.
Mallette pulled netminder Dustin Nikkel (21 saves) after 40 minutes in order to rest his starter for the Knights’ Saturday-night tilt against the host Kimberley Dynamiters (14-5-0-1). The Knights, now 14-7-0-1, cap a three-game road swing today against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats (11-8-0-2) at Johnny Bucyk Arena.
The Knights let their frustration show in the penalty-filled third period, with Brendan Jost and John Saunders both getting into scraps. Rice and Brendon Mangone were Fernie’s combatants.
North Okanagan entertains the first-place Kamloops Storm (20-2-0-2) Friday at Nor-Val Sports Centre.