North Okanagan Knights’ head coach/GM Jim Armstrong worked the phones searching for offence and uncovered a nugget named Zack Andrusiak.
The 16-year-old was listed by the Western Hockey League Tri-City Americans a year ago and got in six exhibition games this season before being released.
Andrusiak, an Armstrong product, rang up 35 goals and 82 points in 66 games with the Pursuit of Excellence U18 team last season.
“They (Americans) were happy with my play, but they’d rather see me play a lot and light it up rather than sit in the stands,” said Andrusiak, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound left winger.
He watched four Tri-City regular-season games from the press box.
“It (pre-season) was good. I never did score my first goal, but I was getting chances. We played Red Deer in Tri-City and I hit three posts; I was getting chances all over the place.”
A Buffalo Sabres’ fan, Andrusiak is best known for his offence, but says he is responsible in his own team’s zone as well. Born in Yorkton, he played several years for his father, Vince, who coached the Yorkton Terriers for more than a decade.
Armstrong will happily have Andrusiak in the lineup Friday night when the Knights host the 0-5 Columbia Valley Rockies at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
“Zack brings, even at 16, the offensive touch we’ve been missing,” said Armstrong. “He’s a north-south player with hands, a player that is hard to find.”
The 2-4-0-2 Knights, who have mustered just 14 goals in eight games, the worst in the 20-team league, exploded for a few Sunday afternoon in a 3-1 win over the Creston Valley Thunder Cats.
The Knights bowed 6-1 to the host Summerland Steam Saturday night.
Asked about the turnaround Sunday, Armstrong said: “Losing the night before. The kids had better focus and played for the full 60 minutes.”
Mitchell Lukacs, unassisted, in the first period, and Logan Geefs, from d-man Matt Halvorson, gave the Knights a 2-0 lead over the Thunder Cats after 40 minutes.
Trevor Beaton pulled Creston Valley within a goal with 4:49 remaining, but Kelowna Midget Tier 1 affiliate Ryan Pereverzoff clinched things with 13 seconds left. Austin Garrington and Halvorson drew assists.
Mitch Profeit made 27 saves for the Knights, while Olivier Charest blocked 23 shots for the Cats. Lukacs and Connor Kidd of Creston were the players of the game.
In Summerland, d-man Layne Greene converted on the powerplay for the Knights’ goal. Geefs and Tyler Mork earned helpers.
Paulsen Lautard (2+1), Jack Mills, Kendall Wilson, Easton Bodeux and Calvin Hadley handled the Steam offence.
The Steam outshot the Knights 47-27 with Brett Huber taking the win and Profeit the loss. Brady Lenardon relieved Profeit and stopped 20 of 22 shots for first star.
The Knights released 16-year-old d-man Willie Daigneault of Gibsons and were bringing in forwards from Quesnel and Burns Lake to practice Tuesday.
The Osoyoos Coyotes top the KIJHL table at 7-0, followed by the Kimberley Dynamiters at 5-0, the Steam and Fernie Ghostriders both at 5-1 and the Nelson Leafs at 4-1-1.