Any chance at home-ice advantage pretty much went out the window last weekend for the North Okanagan Knights.
With just five regular-season Kootenay International Junior Hockey League games to go, the Knights, third in the Okanagan Shuwap’s Doug Birks Division at 31-15-0-1, trail the second-place Kamloops Storm (32-9-1-5) by seven points. As the standings are now, the first-place Revelstoke Grizzlies (34-10-0-3) would host the fourth-place Sicamous Eagles (17-26-1-1) in a best-of-seven series, and the Storm would have home ice against the Knights.
After getting pounded 8-0 by the Kimberley Dynamiters Saturday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre, the Knights fell 5-3 at home to the Grizz in a Sunday matinee.
“It’s up there with our all-time two worst games of the year,” said Knights’ assistant coach Shawn Webb, of the shutout loss. “But I’m still confident with our guys going into playoffs. They’re still doing enough good things in any given game, they just need to do it for a full 60 minutes.”
Richard Hubscher scored in the opening minute for the Dynamiters (32-13-1-1), who added a powerplay tally by Tyson Valette later in the first period to go up 2-0 at the break.
Kimberley withstood some sustained pressure by the Knights early in the second frame before racking up five more goals, including twice on a five-minute man advantage, to put the game out of reach. Hubscher finished with 1+4, while 6-foot-4, 205-pound Fruitvale product Rylan Duley added 2+2.
Against the Grizzlies, North Okanagan trailed 3-1 after one period, and 5-2 after two. Normally a team capable of third-period heroics, the Knights were unable to rally against the Grizzlies.
“We have responded after every lopsided game, but we didn’t do it against Revelstoke Sunday,” said Webb. “We’ve done the same thing with Revelstoke the last three games…we dominated the third period, but Revelstoke is too good a team to beat those odds.
“They match up against us the best of any team in the league.”
Vernon’s Tanner Burns (17th goal), using a quick release during a first-period powerplay, scored for the Knights in the first period.
Eric Chore (19th), working a give-and-go set piece with Burns and Cory Hochhausen, scored in the second, and Brett Hawrys, showing good patience with a top-shelf backhander from the slot, had the lone third-period goal.
The Grizz got a deuce from Jordan Bledsoe and singles from Andrew Standish, Lucas Hildebrand and Vernon’s Michael Roberts, who added an assist. Vernon’s Riley Spraggs pocketed two assists, Cole Sanford had one and netminder Conrad McMillan recorded 20 stops for the win.