It’s been a couple of years since the North Okanagan Knights visited the Kootenays.
The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League has returned to an interlocking schedule for 2018-19, after abandoning the format the past couple of seasons (the Knights only played games against Okanagan-Shuswap and Doug Birks Division rivals, foregoing games against the Eddie Mountain and Neil Murdoch Divisions).
Teams from the other conference will play each other only once this year (no home-and-home games).
The Knights split their season-opening contests, falling 4-1 Friday to the Leafs in Nelson before rebounding to double the Rebels 6-3 Saturday in Castlegar.
North Okanagan plays its home opener Friday against the Kamloops Storm, 7:30 p.m. at the Nor-Val Sports Centre in Armstrong.
Jordan Smith snapped a 3-3 tie with a shorthanded goal for the Knights at 6:35 of the third period Saturday in Castlegar. Ty Toppe, on a power play, and Ethan Matchim added insurance markers 45 seconds apart in the final at 13:08 and 13:52.
After a scoreless opening period, Jason Scheible got North Okanagan on the board with a powerplay marker at 7:18 of the middle frame. The Rebels equalized with the man advantage at 12:35 before Jaden Hay, unassisted, gave the Knights a 2-1 lead at 14:53. Kevin-Thomas Walters scored on a power play with two minutes left in the period to give North Okanagan a 3-1 lead heading into the third period.
Castlegar tied the contest with two goals in the first six minutes.
North Okanagan was 3-6 on the power play, while the Rebels went 1-14, according to league statistics.
Goalie Austin Madge made 42 saves, his second straight 40-plus save performance, for the Knights to earn game star honours.
Madge made 45 saves in Friday’s loss, including 21 in the second period alone when the Leafs outshot the Knights 23-3 (49-14 overall).
Toppe had the one goal for North Okanagan, which tied the game 1-1 at 15:32 of the opening period.
Vernon’s Michael LeNoury, who did not play Friday, has been named a Leafs’ alternate captain. LeNoury will miss the first three games of the season because of a suspension that carried forward from last season.