The North Okanagan Knights had the top team in the bag, but somehow the Kamloops Storm escaped.
Up by a pair of goals late in the third period, the Knights watched as the Storm equalized with two goals in the final minute before pulling off a 6-5 overtime win in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Sunday at McArthur Island Arena.
“We played 55 minutes of great road hockey – good discipline, solid systems. We squeezed out a point against the top team, but I know the guys are disappointed,” said Knights’ coach Kris Mallette.
With twins Eric and Patrick Chore playing up with the BCHL Prince George Spruce Kings, and defenceman Ben Greenaway down with the flu, Mallette called up Vernon’s Mat Lambert and Kelowna’s Matty Saharchuk.
The Knights, third in the Doug Birks Division at 11-4-0-1, built up a 4-2 lead after two periods on goals by Cory Hochhausen (2), Mateja Leko and Tanner Burns. Ryan Harrison and Chase McLeod replied for the 15-1-0-2 Storm.
Tyler Jackson pulled the Storm within one on a powerplay goal with five minutes to play, but Nathan Browne, a Vernon native, restored the two-goal cushion a minute later on a Knights’ man advantage.
Singles 19 seconds apart in the final minute by Diego Cuglietta and Jackson forced OT.
“Our guys started gripping their sticks and panicking and Kamloops was able to gain the momentum,” said Mallette.
“We were basically running two lines. We only had one game last weekend, but our guys were tired and banged up. Kamloops is a physical team.”
With the Chore brothers joining the Spruce Kings on an upcoming road trip, combined with various injuries, the Knights will be down to nine forwards when they begin a three-game weekend against the Osoyoos Coyotes (12-6) Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre. The Knights visit the Sicamous Eagles (6-10) Saturday night.