When North Okanagan Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette carded defenceman David London in January, he had a post-season run in mind.
A 6-foot-2, 210-pounder with Junior A hockey experience, London instantly made the Knights a tougher team in their own end. Tuesday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre, the Kelowna native displayed his offensive arsenal, wiring a pair of powerplay point blasts as the Knights stuffed the Sicamous Eagles 4-3 in Game 2 of their Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff series.
London’s second snipe with 7:17 was the winner, helping North Okanagan take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Doug Birks Division final. He has four goals and three assists in seven games, good enough for fifth in KIJHL post-season scoring for defencemen.
“I just see him getting stronger and stronger,” said Mallette. “He likes to be out there; he likes to be that guy.”
The series headed to Sicamous for Game 3 Thursday, followed by Game 4 tonight at the rec centre. If necessary, the remaining three tilts would go Sunday (Armstrong), Monday (Sicamous) and Tuesday (Armstrong).
Brandon Shirley opened the scoring for the Knights by deflecting a rising point shot by Dryden Profeit with six minutes to go in the first period.
Mallette was pleased to see Shirley, who plays on an energy line with Owen Barker and Anthony Ruggerio, get rewarded for his hustle in front of 375 fans.
“They’ve been able to control the play down low. They’ve been one of our most consistent lines.”
The Knights eased up after the goal, and the veteran Eagles capitalized twice to take a 2-1 lead into the break. Cam Olson leaned into a rolling puck during a Sicamous powerplay for the first one. Brayden Taekema capitalized on a North Okanagan turnover in the final minute for the other goal.
“It all stems from our defencemen and forwards making that one extra move,” said Mallette. “They hold onto it for that half a second and they pounce on it. A lot of their chances have come off our blatant mistakes.”
London collected the lone second-period snipe, and captain Steve Pantazopoulos, who also converted on the man advantage, rounded out North Okanagan’s offence in front of netminder Austin Buzzell (27 saves).
Buzzell started in place of Dustin Nikkel, who did not dress for personal reasons. Mallette planned to start Buzzell in Game 3. Kris Joyce made 22 stops for the Eagles, who got a second goal from Olson with six seconds to play.
The Knights went 3-for-7 with the man advantage, and held the Eagles to one goal on six attempts.