Knights battle to complete three-game road sweep

Knights go 3-0 on KIJHL road swing, including a fight-filled 7-5 win over Spokane Braves Saturday night.

It’s surprising the North Okanagan Knights didn’t get stopped for fireworks at the border because they certainly let off a few Saturday night at Eagles Ice-A-Rena in Spokane.

The Knights and Braves kept the timekeepers busy with a five-fight night, complete with a line brawl and a combined 41 powerplays, as North Okanagan earned a 7-5 win.

Suspended head coach Kris Mallette watched from the stands Sunday as the Knights made it a 3-0 road swing by pummelling the host Grand Forks Border Bruins 6-1 in a matinee. They are second in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League at 5-1-0-1.

“Obviously we’ll take three wins any day,” said Mallette, who earned a two-game suspension, one for each fight over the three per game allowed by the league. He will also miss Friday night’s tilt against the Revelstoke Grizzlies (4-2-0-1) at Nor-Val Sports Centre, but will return Saturday when they host the Penticton Lakers (2-4).

North Okanagan raced out to a 5-0 lead over the 3-4 Braves on goals by second star Morgan Johnston (2), Mat Lambert, Matty Saharchuk and Brett Hawrys. Spokane responded with a powerplay goal from Sean Collins in the second period.

And then the shenanigans started, jumpstarted by a preliminary bout between the Knights’ Owen Barker and Braves’ Brycen Fisher, right off the first draw of the final period. Less than a minute later, Josh Klein earned a boarding major for a hard hit on the Spokane player, which sparked the brawl.

The Knights spent the majority of the third period shorthanded and Spokane rallied on a hat trick by Alex Marmon (first star), all on the man advantage, and a single by Austin Gabriel. The Knights’ Harlan Orr (shorthanded) and Tanner Burns, with the insurance marker, completed the scoring.

Backup keeper Zack Dueck recorded 34 saves for the win, and third star Knights’ defenceman Mac Ferner recorded two assists to go with along a solid scrap with Coleman MacDonald early in period two.

By comparison, Sunday’s tilt with Grand Forks was more like Sunday tea, as the teams combined for just eight penalty minutes. The Knights peppered Bruins’ netminder Robert Dunsmuir with 18 shots in the first period, but only converted in the final minute on a goal by Saharchuk.

Nathan Browne and Barker extended the lead to 3-0 after two periods before Connor Goss answered for Grand Forks (1-7) early in the third. Lambert, followed by a pair from Burns, completed the offence.

ICE CHIPS: Orr, a Vernon native who is third in KIJHL scoring with 4-7-11 in five games, has been called up by the BCHL Salmon Arm SilverBacks for their three-game road swing on Vancouver Island…Burns, also of Vernon, is seventh with 5-4-9 in seven games.