For the second straight game, a mini-meltdown cost the North Okanagan Knights a pair of Kootenay International Junior Hockey League points.
After playing a rock-solid opening 20 minutes, the Knights surrendered three goals in a three-minute span early in period two en route to a 6-4 loss to the Kelowna Chiefs Sunday afternoon at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
“It was almost exactly like the Castlegar game (5-2 loss Friday night),” said Knights’ head coach Shawn Webb. “We played so stellar in the first period and were flat in the second.”
Jagger Bowles, Ryan Baim and Nicholas Gnazdowsky victimized Knights’ netminder Zach Dyment in the three-goal barrage. Dyment was pulled in favour of Mitch Profeit after allowing four goals on 11 shots. Profeit had 20 stops in relief.
Anthony Ruggiero, crashing the net for his third goal, and captain TJ Christensen, with his first as a Knight, gave the 7-5-0-1 Knights a 2-1 lead after they outshot Kelowna 22-5 in the first period (51-33 overall). Baim answered for Kelowna (10-3-0-1), winners of five straight.
Logan Mostat (4th) pulled North Okanagan within one with 8:21 left in the second period.
Dylan Jamieson (8th) and KIJHL scoring leader Nick Josephs (empty-netter), who has 16-16-32 in 16 games, converted for the Chiefs in the third period. Logan Geefs (2nd, powerplay) completed the Knights’ offence.
“When you’re looking at the big picture, we’re close to making some noise in this league,” said Webb. “We’re five minutes away from being a very good hockey team.
“Our young defence has bought into moving the puck and not handling it, and it’s making a difference.”
Webb signed Kamloops Storm castoff Blake Culbert, a 20-year-old centreman who went pointless in seven games this season. The Kelowna product was a point-a-game player (9-29-38 in 37 games) last year with the Storm.
The signing comes at a good time for the Knights as veteran forward Tanner Burns is expected to miss time dealing with a back problem.
“He just wasn’t getting the playing time he wanted,” said Webb. “He got his release and we quickly scooped him up. He’s a real good powerplay quarterback and he’s good on the draw.”
The Knights, who have lost four straight games, host the league-leading Nelson Leafs (10-0-1-1) Friday night at Nor-Val, followed by the 100 Mile House Wranglers (6-7-0-1) Saturday.