North Okanagan Knights lean on reserves

North Okanagan Knights use three Midget call-ups in a pair of weekend road wins – 3-2 over the Kamloops Storm and 5-1 over the Chase Heat.

Kris Mallette hardly treats affiliates like they’re crash-test dummies.

Instead, he gives them regular shifts, puts them out on the penalty kill and lets them learn on the fly in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

Down three defencemen due to suspension, injury and illness, the North Okanagan Knights used three Midget call-ups in a pair of weekend road wins – 3-2 over the Kamloops Storm and 5-1 over the Chase Heat.

Matt Halvorson, a d-man with the Vernon Home Building Centre Midget Tier 1 Vipers, scored his first KIJHL goal to help the Knights Sunday in Chase. Forward Logan Geefs (Vernon) and d-man Justin Lange (Pursuit of Excellence, Kelowna) also enjoyed solid outings.

“They all did a fantastic job for us,” said Mallette, head coach of the Knights. “Every time we bring somebody up, they play well and that bodes well for the team in the future.”

The Knights were without Mac Ferner (suspension), Dryden Profeit (flu) and Tyler Bolduc (broken ankle).

Tanner Burns, who the Knights could lose to the BCHL at the Thursday night carding deadline, recorded his team-high 22nd and 23rd goals of the season against the Heat. Matty Saharchuk fired his 15th and Brett Hawrys got his 10th as the Knights improved to 23-11-1-2.

Dominick Hodges netted his 11th for the Heat (9-25-3-1). The Knights, who got 17 saves from Austin Buzzell, lost forward Colton Thibault (Vernon) with a high-sticking major late in the third period.

The Heat went 1-for-9 on the powerplay with Josh Ellis and Derek Andrews leading a strong Knights’ penalty-killing unit.

In Kamloops, the Knights went up 2-1 just 29 seconds into the third when captain Steven Pantazopoulos earned his sixth snipe of the season, from Ellis and Mat Lambert (Vernon).

Lambert, named first star, netted the eventual winner, at 9:47, his 15th, on a powerplay, assisted by Ellis and Hawrys.

Andrews put North Okanagan up 1-0 in the final minute of the first, with his 14th of the year, from Burns. Knights’ d-man Nathan Browne (Vernon) took second star. Buzzell made 39 stops.

Daniel Buchanan connected for his 18th and 19th goals for the Storm (13-20-2-4).

The Knights, meanwhile, have carded Lumby’s Dylan Bowen, a POE grad who had one assist and 14 penalty minutes in 25 games with the BCHL Salmon Arm SilverBacks. Bowen is 5-foot-10, 165 pounds.

“He should help our back end,” said Mallette. “(Assistant Webb) Shawn and I watched him at Salmon Arm’s camp extensively, and he’s a shot-blocking defenceman who has some offensive upside.”

The Knights have also carded d-man David London, a Kelowna product who is waiting to see what the BCHL Nanaimo Clippers do at the deadline. London, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, has played eight games as an AP with Nanaimo.

London, 19, amassed 1-12-13 in 41 games with Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BCHL last year.

The Knights host the Kelowna Chiefs Friday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre before visiting the Revelstoke Grizzlies Saturday and entertaining the first-overall Nelson Leafs in a 3 p.m. matinee Sunday.

North Okanagan is just one point back of the division-leading Sicamous Eagles.