Down to just nine forwards, the North Okanagan Knights gutted out a 6-4 win over the Osoyoos Coyotes in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
Josh Wickenheiser, the Knights’ leading scorer with 21 points in 17 games, paced his team with a pair of goals, including the opening tally on a great shorthanded effort at the six-minute mark.
“It was a tough win considering we were missing some of our top players,” said the Kelowna native.
North Okanagan, now 12-4-0-1, were without twins Patrick and Eric Chore and Cory Hochhausen, all forwards. They called up Cortlan Procter and Vernon’s Mat Lambert, both forwards with the Major Midget Okanagan Rockets, to fill the ranks.
The line of Bryce Koch, Tanner Burns and Ben Greenaway accounted for the Knights’ remaining offence. Koch netted two goals and Burns and Greenaway pocketed singles.
“It was nice to see Bryce get rewarded for the hard work those guys were doing,” said Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette, who was pleased with his team’s gutsy performance.
“It was a battle of depleted lineups. They did an admirable job. They did what they had to do.
“We could have had a lot of excuses, but the kids worked very hard for what they got. It was nice to get two wins against a team that only lost a handful of games last year.”
After Wickenheiser opened the scoring, the Coyotes (12-6) responded with powerplay goals by Sam Nigg and TJ Dumonceaux. Singles by Koch and Wickenheiser gave the hosts the lead heading into the first intermission.
Greenaway extended North Okanagan’s lead a minute into the second period, but Josh Gray buried back-to-back goals to draw the Coyotes even after two periods.
Burns and Koch, scoring three minutes apart in the third period, completed the scoring.
Both goalies – the Knights’ Dustin Nickel (eight saves) and the Coyotes’ Darren Hogg (19 saves) – were pulled. Colten Wright replaced Nickel and Jordan Gluck came in for Hogg.
North Okanagan visited the 6-10 Sicamous Eagles Saturday night. They entertain the Columbia Valley Rockies (1-17-0-1) in a 2 p.m. matinee today in Armstrong.