Morning Star Staff
The North Okanagan Knights were gracious Thanksgiving weekend hosts.
The Knights (3-7-0-1) scored only once in a pair of Kootenay International Junior Hockey League losses at the Nor-Val Sports Centre.
The goal came Saturday, at 9:55 of the first period from game star Graham Watkins (team-leading fourth of the year), in a 7-1 setback to division rivals Kelowna Chiefs.
The Knights have since gone 110 minutes and 55 seconds without scoring, as they dropped their fourth game in a row Sunday, 3-0, to the Doug Birks Division-leading Kamloops Storm.
Only the Golden Rockets (14) and Grand Forks Border Bruins (20) have scored fewer goals this season than the Knights (21).
“No question, goals are hard to come by right now,” said North Okanagan head coach Bryant Perrier. “Saturday’s game was the first time this season we just got lost. We were all over them for the first 10 minutes, then we get one little piece of adversity and it snowballs. Sometimes you go through that.
“The next night, we played a very good team, it was 1-0 for the most part, and we had our chances.”
The Chiefs (5-5-0-0) got 2+1 from game star Josh Kobelka and went 3-5 on the powerplay Saturday in front of 180 fans at Nor-Val.
Kelowna outshot North Okanagan 37-22, chasing Knights starting goalie Daniel Paul after scoring three times in the first period. Tristan Quiring played the final two periods.
Paul rebounded Sunday to be named North Okanagan game star as he made 27 saves with the Knights being outshot 30-23 by the Storm, who scored the winner at 19:54 of the first period.
Kamloops, which owns the best record in the league at 10-1-0-1, put the game away with two goals in the final frame before 120 fans. Spencer Eschyschyn recorded the shutout.
“We gave Kamloops shots from the perimeter, outside the dots, top of the blue, but they had maybe three quality chances after the first (period),” said Perrier. “We changed our systems after the first period and played better in the second and third. Blaine Caton had two breakaways.
“We’re not going to panic. I’m not concerned about (won-loss) records. I’m concerned about the process. We have to keep the group calm and we’re trying to find ways to get better.”
The Knights hit the Kootenays this weekend against the top three teams in the Neil Murdoch Division in the Beaver Valley Nitehawks (8-2), Castlegar Rebels (8-2) and Nelson Leafs (5-5).
Former North Okanagan head coach Jim Armstrong has been named head scout and director of player development for the KIJHL’s Revelstoke Grizzlies. Armstrong was behind the Knights bench for the 2014-15 season.