Josh Ellis recorded the Gordie Howe hat trick as the North Okanagan Knights thumped the Penticton Lakers 4-0 in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action Saturday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
Ellis, a late cut by the BCHL Salmon Arm SilverBacks, scored his first of the season with a bar-down one-timer seven minutes into the first period. He and Mat Lambert assisted on linemate Brett Hawrys’ rebound goal, his second of the season, to make it 2-0 later in the period.
Lambert, Ellis and Hawrys earned first, second and third star respectively.
Ellis, who played on a line with Lambert in Major Midget last season with the Okanagan Rockets, found himself in a scrap with Penticton’s JR Krolik right off the opening faceoff of the second period.
“Ellis isn’t a fighter; Krolik is tough, very tough,” said Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette. “I give Josh a lot of credit for standing in there with a tough player when he really didn’t have a choice.
“It was chippy and Penticton was getting frustrated. Our guys were playing physical and when you’re only mustering four or five shots a period (Knights outshot Lakers 32-14), you’re going to get frustrated.”
Knights’ defenceman Mac Ferner (2nd) kept North Okanagan (7-1-0-1) rolling with a seeing-eye shot from the point early in the second period. Derek Andrews, netting his first of the season, capped the scoring on a goal-mouth scramble.
“That was one of his (Andrews) best games I’ve seen him play in a while,” said Mallette. “He’s not a flashy guy but he was supporting the puck extremely well all night.
“The guys skated very well. Still a little scrambly in our zone but our forwards were able to expose them with their speed. We created a lot of odd-man rushes.”
Dustin Nikkel cruised to his first shutout of the season, dropping the Lakers to 2-6. Nikkel’s .950 save percentage is tops in the KIJHL.
The Knights will put their six-game winning streak on the line this weekend in a home-and-home against the undefeated Sicamous Eagles (5-0-0-2), starting Friday night (7:30) at Nor-Val. The second leg goes Saturday (7:00) at the Sicamous Rec Complex.
The Eagles feature 15 returnees and 11 1993-born players, so Mallette knows it will be a good test.
“They’re a good team that knows where everybody’s at,” said Mallette. “They’re nothing flashy but they come at you hard and they play well in their own rink.”
ICE CHIPS: Mallette was unsure whether forward Harlan Orr will be back in the Knights’ lineup for the weekend. Orr, a Vernon product, went scoreless in three games as a call-up with the SilverBacks during their Vancouver Island road swing last weekend.