Bryant Perrier wants the North Okanagan Knights to be a much tougher opponent this Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season.
After two exhibition wins and well into Week 2 of training camp, the second-year head coach figures his crew is buying into that wish.
The Knights brushed back the Kelowna Chiefs 3-1 in preseason play Sunday night at Kal Tire Place for their second straight win. North Okanagan iced the Chiefs 6-2 Friday night in Rutland.
The Knights went 14-30-3-5 to finish fourth in the Okanagan/Shuswap Okanagan Division last year and Perrier wasn’t satisfied with the team’s pursuit of loose pucks.
“We have improve our compete level,” he said. “The kids understand when you lose the puck, there has to be a desire and drive to go and retain that much. Our new guys are leading the way and our core group is waking up. It’s infectious when a few guys never give up on a puck battle.”
Kelowna product Mitch Cobbett, who captained the Knights last year as an 18-year-old, scored two even-strength goals and returning defenceman Layne Greene of Vernon finished a nice bang-bang play for a powerplay snipe Sunday night.
“Layne has been all-world for us; he’s such a great kid,” said Perrier. “We love our back end. We’re more mobile this year. We can pass the puck out of our zone quicker and the guys can all skate and think. We’ve told everybody to listen and think. We don’t mind if you don’t understand something; we can teach that.”
Greene, in his final year, pocketed seven goals and 24 points last season.
Perrier, who is assisted by Graham Watkins, the Knights’ leading scorer and alternate captain last year, had 14 forwards, nine dee and four goalies in camp at press time Tuesday. Vernon Tier 2 Midget Viper grad Conor Webb has joined the netminding group.
Thomas Watts of Abbotsford (2000 birth date), Jared Breitzkreutz of Summerland (1998) and Robert Nawrot of Abbotsford (1999) are the other net detectives.
Watts stopped 21 of 22 shots at Kal Tire place, while Breitzkreutz blocked all 17 drives he faced.
The Knights will be without Dawson Creek recruit Logan Morris (‘99) for three months after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in the second period. Perrier has filed a complain with the league on what he felt was a reckless hit worthy of a charging call. There was no penalty issued on the play.
The Knights practise today and Thursday from 1-2:15 p.m. at Kal Tire Place before visiting the Sicamous Eagles in final exhibition play Friday night.
The Knights open the season Friday, Sept. 9 in Princeton versus the Posse.