Knights prepare for Stormy series

North Okanagan Knights prepare for first-round KIJHL playoff showdown with Kamloops Storm.

It’s the playoff partner the North Okanagan Knights really wanted.

The Knights, making their post-season debut in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, open a best-of-seven, first-round series Friday night in Kamloops against the Storm. Game 2 goes Saturday night back at the McArthur Island Sports Centre.

In eight regular-season meetings with Kamloops, the Knights won three of four overtime games and five times in all. The Storm won two blowouts and the Knights one.

The Knights finished third in the Doug Birks Division and seventh overall in the 20-team league, at 35-16-0-1. Kamloops (35-10-1-6) ended up second in the division, six points up on the Knights and one back of the Revelstoke Grizzlies.

Games 3 and 4 will go Monday and Tuesday nights at the Nor-Val Sports Centre in Armstrong.

The Knights ended the regular season Saturday night in Chase, brushing off the last-place Heat 8-2 behind 2+1 from red-hot Tanner Burns (finished with 22 goals).

Cory Hochhausen, Eric Chore and Derek Andrews each netted 1+2 for the Knights, while Lee Muir, Justin Murray and captain Steven Pantazopoulos also scored in support of Aaron Brandoli. Brett Hawyrs had three helpers.

Kevin Leschuk and Reece Forman (shorthanded) replied for the Heat (5-45-1-1).

Kamloops fell from the penthouse when all-star goalie Lynden Stanwood joined the BCHL Trail Smoke Eaters in mid-December.

The Storm are led by one of the most potent forward lines in the KIJHL with 20-year-old Kamloops minor hockey graduares Colten DeFrias (37-58-95), Chase Edwards (45-38-83) and Tyler Jackson (29-47-76).

“I like the way we match up against them,” said Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette. “We play them quite well and we just have to stick to our style, getting pucks in deep and playing a quick transition game.”