Head coach Kris Mallette has seen glimpses of potential, but is still waiting for the consistency that will make the North Okanagan Knights a threat in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
The Knights dropped their second straight game Friday night, falling 4-3 in overtime to the Kamloops Storm at McArthur Island Sports Complex.
Making a disappointing night worse, the team bus broke down on the way home, requiring a boost before it could complete the journey.
The teams squared off again Saturday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre in Armstrong.
“Our guys at this point are just cutting corners,” said Mallette. “Everybody sees it, it’s just whether or not they want to change it.
“Until we figure that out, we’ll just keep squeaking them out or losing heartbreakers in overtime.”
The 1-1-0-1 Knights jumped out to a first-period lead on a pair of goals less than two minutes apart. Vernon’s Mat Lambert showed good hands down low during a goal-mouth scramble to open the scoring at 12:32. Lambert had botched a breakaway attempt a few minutes earlier, so Mallette was happy to see him redeem himself.
Morgan Johnson of Kelowna buried a quick wrister from the high slot past Marcus Beesley for the 2-0 goal.
Blake Culbert, who also collected the OT winner, got the 2-0 Storm going a minute into the second frame. Stefan Wood equalized with five minutes remaining before Harlan Orr, a late cut by the BCHL Surrey Eagles, restored North Okanagan’s lead with 13 seconds to go in the period.
Orr’s shot from the high slot pinballed off a shinpad and a skate before beating Beesley fivehole.
The Storm forced OT with a minute remaining in regulation on a goal by Taylor Ward.
North Okanagan netminder Dustin Nikkel ended the night with 46 saves and third star. Mallette said he and Beesley were both solid in the first overtime period.
It took just 16 seconds for Kamloops to put the game away in double-OT as the Knights bailed on their defensive assignments, leaving Culbert all alone in the slot.
“The kid points against us all the time,” said Mallette. “That’s probably the one guy you don’t want to leave alone in the slot by himself.”
The Knights end September with a three-game road schedule, starting Friday against the Castlegar Rebels.