The North Okanagan Knights are headed to the Kootenays tonight buoyed by the confidence of a three-game win streak.
They’ll need all the swagger they can muster as they take on the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League-leading Nelson Leafs (20-1-1-3), who have lost just once in regulation this season.
Shawn Webb’s Knights (12-11-0-1) visit the defending KIJHL champion Castlegar Rebels (12-10-1-3) Saturday night.
“Their powerplay is ridiculous,” said Webb, of the Leafs, ranked third on the man advantage (26.80 per cent).
“You give those teams powerplays and they’ll kill you. You’ve got to out-skate them and you can’t be lazy.”
Zach Dyment will get the start tonight after he backed North Okanagan to a 4-2 win over the Sicamous Eagles Wednesday at the Sicamous Recreation Centre.
Webb said it was the second straight solid performance by Dyment, who finished with 37 saves and is now 7-9.
The Knights received a boost with the return of d-man Riley Booth and agitating forward Logan Mostat after month-long absences to injury.
“Getting him back in our lineup has really bolstered our back end,” said Webb, of Vernon’s Booth. “He’s just playing a smart, physical game.”
Blaine Caton snapped a six-game pointless streak to open North Okanagan’s scoring 11:50 into the first period. The 16-year-old Vernon product whacked home his own rebound from a tough angle for his third goal.
“He’s just been snake-bitten big time,” said Webb, crediting Caton’s perseverance. “He’s had some ridiculous opportunities.”
The Eagles (10-14-0-2) replied in the second frame on Colin Blake’s first of the season.
Dennon Leibel (2nd goal) one-timed a feed from Caton late in period two, just as a North Okanagan powerplay had expired.
Tanner Cochrane, with his third goal in four games, supplied the winner early in the third period, assisted by Blake Culbert and Mostat.
Rowen Oswell (2nd) pulled the Eagles within a goal later in the period, but Knights’ d-man Austin Garrington (2nd) showed good poise in waiting for traffic to gather in front of Chris Turner (35 saves) before beating him with a point shot for some insurance.
Meanwhile, the Vernon Vipers begin a two-game BCHL home stand tonight (7 p.m.) against the Merritt Centennials at Kal Tire Place.
The Snakes, second in the Interior Division at 14-7-3-4, entertain the last-place Trail Smoke Eaters (7-17-2-1) in a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday.
In BCHL action Tuesday at Royal LePage Place, the Penticton Vees leapfrogged the Vipers into first in the Interior with a 3-2 comeback win over the host West Kelowna Warriors.
Jordan Masters scored twice in a three-minute span to peg the 14-10-1-2 Warriors to an early first-period lead, but Penticton replied on powerplay snipes by Paul Stoykewych and Ben Dalpe.
Vees’ captain Brad McClure pocketed the winner with 2:28 to play.