The North Okanagan Knights hadn’t skated in a formal practice since before the Christmas break. It showed Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
The Knights spotted the Grand Forks Border Bruins a two-goal cushion before falling 5-2 to open their 2014 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League schedule.
“We gave up a lot of ice in front (of the net),” said North Okanagan head coach Shawn Webb.
Connor Gross, with the first of his two powerplay goals, opened the scoring for the 11-18-2-2 Bruins. Coleton Dawson, outhustling a North Okanagan backchecker, made it 2-0 after one period.
The Knights came alive in the second frame, firing 27 of their 51 shots at netminder Kai MacDonald. The problem was, Ryan Kelm was the only one to beat the Bruins’ keeper.
Kelm, a 17-year-old Victoria product, got in behind a Grand Forks d-man on a 2-on-2 rush, took a pass from Brett Hawrys and beat MacDonald with a backhand deke 1:37 in period two.
Gross converted again on the man advantage with 1:07 to go in the period.
“In the second period, we dominated all around, but we hit the goalie a ton,” said Webb. “The opportunities were there but we didn’t capitalize.”
Webb said the Knights did a much better job of controlling the play as the game went on.
“The neutral zone was wide open for them to skate through in the first period. We remedied that in the second and third.”
Cole Woodliffe, playing on an all-Vernon Midget Tier 1 call-up line with Jeff Bochon and Jagger Williamson, scored the Knights’ other goal in the third period. Coming from behind the net, he made a nice move to fake out MacDonald (39 saves).
The Bruins’ Michael Rand added insurance with North Okanagan netminder Zach Dyment (36 saves) pulled for the extra attacker.
Corey Munro recorded the Bears’ third powerplay marker in the final minute.
The Knights, fourth in the Okanagan Division at 16-17-0-1, continue a five-game home stand this afternoon (3 p.m.) against the third-place Summerland Steam (19-13-1-3).