The North Okanagan Knights’ 4-1 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League loss Friday morning to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks at the league’s College Showcase tournament in Kamloops was the last thing on the organization’s mind after the contest.
Thoughts were with Knights starting goalie Austin Madge, who suffered an apparent head injury after allowing a goal five minutes into the third period.
“It was tied 1-1, then they got a bit of a lucky one. When the puck went in, Austin turned his head and then one of our D-men and one of their players crashed into him as they were going to the net,” said North Okanagan head coach John Van Horlick after the game. “I’m not sure what happened next but Austin seemed to hit his head.
“As they were tending to him on the ice, he said he had some tingling in his back and in his legs, so they were going to take every precaution with him.”
Madge was taken off the ice by stretcher. The Knights’ Facebook page said Madge was alert as he was being taken away, and told his teammates to “score some goals, boys.”
Van Horlick said it took nearly two hours for an ambulance to get to the arena to transport Madge to Royal Inland Hospital for observation, as all of the ambulances were busy when the call came in.
The team was waiting for an update on Madge’s condition at The Morning Star’s deadline.
Affiliate player Caedon Bellmann played the final 15 minutes in net.
Trailing 1-0 going into the final period, North Okanagan leading scorer Jett Saharchuk scored his team-leading 19th goal, on an assist from Alec McLeod, to tie the contest early in the frame.
The Knights started the second half of the KIJHL season Thursday afternoon the same way they finished the first half.
With a win.
Player of the game Cameron McKenzie scored with 2:30 left in regulation time to give the Knights a 3-2 win over the Golden Rockets at the league’s first-ever College Showcase tournament, with games being played at the McArthur Island Sports Centre and Kamloops Memorial Arena.
It’s the first-ever tournament for the league, with all KIJHL teams gathering in Kamloops for three days to compete in front of college scouts and talent evaluators.
“For our players, these games are an excellent opportunity for them to showcase their talents in front of college scouts from across North America and get their names on the radar of some great hockey programs,” said KIJHL president Larry Martel. “For our fans, this showcase event is perfect to watch all teams from across the league as they descend on the host city for one action-packed three days of hockey.
“For the scouts and evaluators, the practical benefits of seeing all our players compete in one city over three days helps make their jobs a little easier.”
Each team plays twice in the Showcase.
The Nitehawks dropped a 4-2 decision Thursday to the Sicamous Eagles.
The Knights (10-20-0-1) never trailed against the Rockets (13-16-2-0) Thursday at McArthur Island.
Tyler Olsen opened the scoring at 12:39 of the opening period, set up by Saharchuk and Jaxon Kjenstad.
Golden tied the game early in the second period on a powerplay before Cole Haberlack restored the Knights’ edge, from McKenzie and Vineet Kaila, at 9:44.
The Rockets equalized midway through the final frame, setting the stage for McKenzie’s game-winner, with Kaila and Jordan Smith drawing assists.
Madge made 33 saves to pick up his 10th win of the season for North Okanagan. The Knights fired 30 shots at Golden’s Ryan Baker.
The win moved North Okanagan to within five points of the Princeton Posse for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Okanagan-Shuswap Division. The Posse lost its showcase opener, 4-3, to the Creston Valley Thundercats. Princeton took on the Nelson Leafs Friday.
Michael LeNoury of Vernon was held off the Nelson scoresheet in the Leafs’ 5-4 win over the Kamloops Storm Thursday. Lincoln Connor of the Storm had a two-minute minor penalty.
Vernon’s Ethan Joe scored the game-winner for the Chase Heat Thursday, as they blanked the Castlegar Rebels 3-0.
The Knights return to action Jan. 5 when they visit the Wranglers in 100 Mile House.