Morning Star Staff
The North Okanagan Knights are playing the league’s elite teams tough, but just can’t deliver the knockout snipe.
The Knights blew a 3-1 second-period lead Sunday afternoon in losing 4-3 to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Okanagan Division leading Osoyoos Coyotes at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
“In the first two periods, we didn’t give them anything,” said Knights head coach Bryant Perrier. “We panicked in the third with the lead which we have done in past games. We just don’t have the killer instinct. We’re in every game; we’re not getting blown out.”
While the Coyotes enjoyed a 54-19 shot advantage, Perrier said 60 per cent of those were from outside the slot.
Enderby 20-year-old Graham Watkins bagged a deuce for the 3-11-0-2 Knights, who have lost nine straight. Watkins converted 2:26 apart late in the second period, making it 3-1. He has five goals on the season.
Reid Wilson clicked on a powerplay 74 seconds into the middle frame for the Coyotes (9-4-0-1) Colin Robin answered for the Knights eight minutes later on a powerplay. Robin, a third-year veteran out of Fort St. James, has four goals.
Watkins was named game star for the Knights before 125 fans. He was highly effective on a line with Austin Fournier and newly-acquired Scott Latwat.
“He played with lots of emotion; he came to play,” said Bryant, of Watkins.
Spokane product Bobby LaRue struck twice four minutes apart midway through the third period for the Coyotes. Calgary’s Daniel Stone recorded the winner 24 seconds after LaRue’s equalizer for his sixth of the year. LaRue has seven snipes.
Perrier, who had a month to recruit players once being hired in early June, realizes it’s a rebuilding season but he may tweak his roster some more.
Latwat, a gritty winger who turns 19 in November, was released by the KIJHL Kamloops Storm. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Vernon product split last year between the Knights and Grand Forks Border Bruins, getting two goals and six points.
The Knights also signed puck-moving d-man Rhys Colpron of Kelowna. The 6-foot, 185-pounder had two goals in eight games with North Okanagan last season. He’s 18.
The Knights host the Nelson Leafs (10-5) Friday night and entertain the Beaver Valley Nite Hawks (13-2) Saturday night.
Nelson is riding a five-game winning streak, while Beaver Valley has won six straight. The Kimberley Dynamiters are first at 13-1-0-2.