North Okanagan Knights' Bryce Koch (left) and Fernie Ghostriders' Ty Morton battle for puck possession in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action Sunday afternoon at Nor-Val Sports Centre in Armstrong.

North Okanagan Knights' Bryce Koch (left) and Fernie Ghostriders' Ty Morton battle for puck possession in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action Sunday afternoon at Nor-Val Sports Centre in Armstrong.

Solid start for Knights

The North Okanagan Knights went 2-1 on their opening weekend of Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action.

Last year, it took until the playoffs for the North Okanagan Knights to earn their lone win against the Revelstoke Grizzlies. A few days later, their season was over as Revelstoke went on to win the first-round series 4-1.

The Knights wasted no time in seeking redemption in their 2011-12 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League campaign, registering a 6-3 win over the Grizz in their first encounter Saturday night at Nor-Val Sports Centre.

Head coach Kris Mallette said the win was as much a mental victory as it was two points in the standings for the Knights, who ended a three-game home stand with a 5-2 loss to the Fernie Ghost Riders in a Sunday matinee in Armstrong.

“The holdovers from last year, that was new territory for them and a great confidence booster,” said Mallette.

“It doesn’t mean a lot (in the standings), but to get a win against Revelstoke and to be 2-1 after the weekend is a good start.”

Against Revelstoke, the Knights got off a stellar start with goals 12 seconds apart by Eric Chore and Mateja Leko. Then the North Okanagan powerplay went to work, with Patrick Chore and Bryce Koch firing man-advantage goals late in the first period.

The Knights recorded eight powerplay goals on 33 attempts (24.24 per cent) in their first three games.

“Our powerplay is clicking early and that was the difference Friday (7-3 win over Sicamous Eagles) and Saturday. They were finding openings and moving the puck. It got us off to a good quick start,” said Mallette.

Armstrong’s Brett Hawrys scored the lone second-period goal before the Grizzlies started a push in the third.

“We kind of sat back. They scored one and we started to panic, and then the scored two and three,” said Mallette.

Darnel St. Pierre, with a pair, and Marc Letourneau handled the Revelstoke scoring. Koch netted his second goal to complete North Okanagan’s attack.

Blake Puetz earned the win with 21 saves. Ethan Wood (17 saves) took the loss.

Mallette said Puetz and Colten Wright, both Salmon Arm minor hockey products, have earned an extended tryout while he seeks out a veteran No. 1 net detective.

The Ghostriders were the ones to get off to a hot start Sunday afternoon, burying three unanswered goals in the first period.

Wright (16 saves) got caught looking for the backdoor pass on a pair of short side powerplay goals by Easton Bodeux and Connor McLaughlin.

Down 3-0, Mallette credited the young tender for keeping his team alive with some solid saves after that.

Sean Mulcahy, with the lone second-period strike, and Josh Wickenheiser, with a man-advantage goal in the third frame, handled North Okanagan’s attack.

Austin Evan and Josh McSkimming put the game away with a pair of empty-netters in the final minute.

While Mallette was happy to see how his team responded after being down early, he said it wasn’t enough of a push back.

“To see how the kids responded, they were definitely resilient to make it 3-2 in the third period.

“The guys battled but by no means did we deserve to win that game. The team that beat us was in the same boat (playing three games in three days).”

For the record, Hawrys was not traded to the Kelowna Chiefs, as was reported in Friday’s Morning Star.