With a big Kootenay International Junior Hockey League weekend coming up, the North Okanagan Knights were looking for a scrap of momentum to build upon.
After dropping the first two of a three-game road swing, they found a much-needed spark in Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Creston Valley Thunder Cats at Johnny Bucyk Arena.
The Knights (15-8-0-1) entertain the first-place Kamloops Storm (22-2-0-2) Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre, followed by a Saturday tilt against division rival Revelstoke Grizzlies (16-5-0-1).
Already missing Bryce Koch and Ben Greenaway, the Knights’ forward corps was further depleted Sunday when Brett Hawrys got into a first-period scrap instigated by Jaiden Ward, leaving them with just seven forwards.
Making matters worse, head coach Kris Mallette was tossed late in the second period for arguing with referee Sean Madsen. The Knights then took another penalty, and the Thunder Cats scored once on the 5-on-3 and added a second goal in the final minute of the period to take a 3-1 lead into the break.
“Shawn Webb (assistant coach) did a great job keeping them calm on the bench and it was Creston who started taking some undisciplined penalties,” said Mallette.
“The kids just played lights out in the third period. Sunday was all heart and the kids pulled through.”
Although credited with just two goals, including the opening goal early in the second period, Patrick Chore scored four times for the Knights. His twin brother Eric added a pair of assists.
Josh Wickenheiser chimed in with four helpers in front of Colten Wright (26 saves). Tyler Moffatt made 37 stops in the loss.
“The Chores really stepped it up. They’re a huge part of our team and it showed on the Sunday,” said Mallette.
“It was a very big moral victory for the kids. I know they’re frustrated and I know they’re working hard, but I said ‘You guys are the ones that have set the bar. Anything else is unacceptable.’ We can’t take any nights off.”
Mallette was less impressed with North Okanagan’s 5-2 loss to the host Kimberley Dynamiters Saturday night.
“We weren’t great, but we were definitely better than we were on Friday night (4-0 loss to Fernie Ghostriders),” said Mallette.
Patrick Chore and Wickenheiser handled the Knights’ scoring against Kimberley.