His first goal of the year was a big one for the North Okanagan Knights.
Levi Harris’ goal at 4:01 of the third period was the winner as the Knights defeated the Eagles 7-4 in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action Saturday in Sicamous.
The Knights host the Kelowna Chiefs in the third and final of three regular games to be played at the Enderby Arena tonight at 7:30.
North Okanagan jumped out to a 3-0 lead two minutes into the second period before the Eagles rallied with three goals before the end of the frame to equalize.
Harris’ goal was sandwiched around markers by Dean Whitcomb, his second of the game, giving him 11 on the year, and Layne Greene (fifth). Jason Shaigec added his fourth at 13:22 on a powerplay to complete the four-goal third-period outburst for North Okanagan.
“It was great,” said Knights head coach and general manager Bryant Perrier of his team’s offensive explosion.
“We played like a family instead of guys trying to win games by themselves. And it was great to see a guy like Levi get in on the scoring. We’re going to need that down the stretch. That’s what you want, other guys contributing.”
Carl Main had the other two goals for North Okanagan to support goalie Conor Webb, who stopped 23 shots. The Knights fired 33 pucks at Eagles goalie Josh Bolding.
Twenty-four hours earlier at home, the Knights blew an opportunity to extend their lead over Princeton in the battle for the fourth and final Okanagan Shuswap Division playoff spot.
The Posse went into Armstrong and doubled the Knights 4-2, cinching things with an empty-netter.
“We outshot them and outplayed them, just didn’t outscore them,” said Perrier. “That’s a game we have to have.”
The Posse scored three unanswered after Jack Berger (fifth) opened the scoring for the Knights at 8:03 of the opening period.
Shaigec got the home side back to within a goal on a powerplay with 10 minutes left in regulation but could not get the equalizer past Posse netminder Chandler Billinghurst, who finished with 32 saves.
Daniel Paul made 23 stops in taking the loss.
North Okanagan (12-20-0-1) has a two-point lead on the Posse (9-21-1-4) and have two games in hand.
Perrier has been busy working the phones, looking hard for an experienced player prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline.
North Okanagan lost defenceman E.J. Shaw, 18, (personal) and 20-year-old forward Logan Geefs (work) following the Christmas break. Neither will return.
Geefs was third in team scoring with 10 goals and nine assists in 31 games.
His departure leaves Greene as the team’s only 20-year-old player.
“Experience is something I’m looking for but it’s difficult,” said Perrier.
Four Knights have been named to the Okanagan Conference roster for the return of the league’s Top Prospects game, set for Saturday at 2 p.m. in Kelowna.
The game is being played in conjunction with the annual Kelowna Midget Invitational tournament, and is being used as a recruiting showcase.
Named to the game from the Knights are forwards Brady Marzocco and Whitcomb, defenceman Shaigec and goalie Webb is an alternate.
North Okanagan and Kamloops each have four players chosen to the squad.