Bryant Perrier lost his voice so he left the post-playoff speech to assistant coaches Graham Watkins and Liam McOnie.
The message was simple: Don’t hang your heads. Come back next year stronger, fitter and more committed.
Perrier, who signed a three-year deal as bench boss of the North Okanagan Knights, was content with his youthful team’s showing in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
The Knights, who only lose 20-year-old captain Layne Greene of Vernon to graduation, lost 3-2 in overtime to the Osoyoos Coyotes Tuesday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre. The Coyotes, who topped the Okanagan Division 43 points ahead of the Knights, swept the first-round, best-of-seven playoff series.
“The talk we heard from Osoyoos was that as this series went on, we got tougher to play against,” said Perrier. “we consumed a lot of energy in the first game when we struggled (8-1 loss), but we cut their shot count way down in Game 4. Osoyoos had three rookies in their lineup. Give them all the credit. They’re a championship team; if they can hold it together, they can win the whole league.”
League MVP Colin Bell, a 19-year-old Terrace product, corralled a fluky bounce off the back dasher and beat Daniel top shelf at 9:38 of overtime before 175 fans in Armstrong. Judd Repole and Daniel Stone drew assists.
“It was a terrific Game 4,” said Perrier. “We had nobody quitting. Everybody worked hard. We finished things off strong and we finally have a base here; the team is in good shape. We made the playoffs back-to-back after missing them for three season.”
The Knights lost veteran d-man EJ Shaw and crafty centre Logan Geefs at Christmas for personal reasons, and Perrier said it was impossible to replace that high-end talent. He and his staff have brought academics and community involvement up to higher levels, enhancing the team’s image big time.
The Knights will expect more offence next year. They scored just 119 goals, fifth worst in the 20-team Junior B loop. Brady Marzocco of Vernon was the team’s leading scorer with 21 snipes and 37 points. Whitcomb, with 19 goals, and Jaden Hay of Grindrod, with 14 despite missing a dozen games, were the only Knights in double-digit scoring.
Kyle Sherwood of Vernon and Dean Whitcomb of Prince George handled the Knights’ offence Tuesday night. Repole, game star for Osoyoos, and Austin Steger provided the other Coyote snipes.
Osoyoos outshot North Okanagan 33-27. It was 1-0 Coyotes after one period and 2-1 Knights after 40 minutes. The Coyotes went 2-for-3 on the powerplay, the Knights 0-for-5.
The Coyotes will meet either the Summerland Steam or Kelowna Chiefs in Round 2. That series was square at 2-2 going into Thursday night in Summerland.