Knights fall to Grizz in first round

The North Okanagan Knights’ hopes for a first-round playoff upset ended Sunday night in Revelstoke.

Facing the host Grizzlies at the Forum, the Knights fell 6-3 in Game 5 of their best-of-seven Kootenay International Junior Hockey League series.

The Grizz overcame an early two-goal deficit with four unanswered goals to advance to the second round. They will have home-ice advantage against the Kamloops Storm in the Okanagan Conference semifinals, starting Thursday at the Forum.

After his debut season behind the Knights’ bench, head coach Sylvain Leone said the last year has been one of change and adjustment throughout the organization. Four of the seven staff positions had to be filled after its expansion season.

“It was a fresh start this year. It was a chance to put our stamp on the team,” he said.

Leone is already recruiting for the 2011-12 season, and plans to hold a spring camp in either late April or early May. He estimates the Knights could potentially have 10-12 returning players for next season, but added he would like to add some new blood in the lineup.

“Although we’re pleased with how it went, we’re looking forward to bringing in a fresh class of players,” he said. 

Mateja Kelo and Colin Minardi, on the powerplay, got North Okanagan off to an ideal road start Sunday with goals in the first six minutes.

“We finally got the start we wanted,” said Leone. “We spotted them two-goal leads in our other games.”

The Grizz responded later in the first on goals by Brandon Perger and Brad Friedrich, who scored with 12 seconds to play in the period.

Dylan Rota and T.J. Christensen staked Revelstoke to a 4-2 lead before third star Zachary Lindsay replied for the Knights on a penalty shot with 4:05 remaining in the second.

Revelstoke iced the game with a Brendan Urban powerplay goal at 2:29, followed by an empty-netter from first star Braeden Monk in the final minute.

North Okanagan netminder Chris Solecki faced 49 shots while Revelstoke keeper Tory Caldwell made 17 stops.