If the North Okanagan Knights were going to climb the standings, they knew they would have to start taking down some top teams.
They made some headway Friday night with a 3-2 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League road win over the Osoyoos Coyotes at the Sun Bowl.
North Okanagan sits third in the Doug Birks division at 7-3, four points back of the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference-leading Kamloops Storm (8-1-0-2), and two back of the Coyotes (8-5), who lead the Okanagan division. The Revelstoke Grizzlies are second in the Doug Birks at 8-2-0-1.
“Bar none our most complete two periods,” said Knights’ head coach Kris Mallette, of Friday night’s effort. “The guys were flying and the defence played extremely strong and we were rewarded for our work.”
Vernon product Alex Jewell (second star) opened the scoring for Oysoos midway through the first period, but the Knights stormed back with a 5-on-3 goal by Brendan Jost, followed by a nice solo effort by Mateja Leko with just over a minute left in the period. Jost buried his goal with a hard wrister, post and in, while Leko used his speed to drive wide around an Osoyoos d-man before cutting to the net.
“He’s probably one of the fastest skaters in this league,” said Mallette of Leko, a California product.
A great defensive play by Josh Wickenheiser to get in the shooting lane and block a shot translated into the Knights’ third goal, a shorthanded marker at 15:31 of the second period. The playmaking forward showed good hands and strength to finish in close with a Coyote defender on his heels.
The Coyotes came on strong in the third period, getting a powerplay goal from Steve Sasyniuk with four minutes to play, but netminder Dustin Nikkel stood tall after that.
“They threw everything at us and we got away from what made us successful in the first two periods,” said Mallette.
North Okanagan visited the 6-2-0-1 Princeton Posse Saturday night. They host the 0-12 Chase Heat in a 2:45 p.m. matinee today at Nor-Val Sports Centre.