Knights stumble into New Year

North Okangan Knights bow 6-1 to Chase Heat in New Year's Eve showdown.

The North Okanagan Knights didn’t exactly ring in the New Year in style Monday night in Chase.

The Knights suffered one of their most lopsided losses of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season, bowing 6-1 to the host Heat in front of 271 fans at Art Holding Memorial Arena.

“After a long break, one team is usually going to be (sluggish) and that was us,” said North Okanagan head coach Kris Mallette.

“It was a perfect chance for us to get our legs out if we played it simple, but bottom line, we were just not that good at all.”

North Okanagan, second in the Doug Birks Division at 21-11-1-2, kept it close for half a game before imploding down the stretch.

The Heat (8-24-3-1), opened the scoring in the first period on first star McKenzie Guariero’s fourth of the year. Knights’ captain Steve Pantazopoulos equalized six minutes into the second frame after some hustle down low by Matty Saharchuk and Derek Andrews. Pantazopoulos buried his fifth goal with a snap shot from the hash marks.

“It was a good response,” said Mallette. “At that point I thought maybe we could build some momentum, but that wasn’t the case.”

Chase put the game away with five unanswered goals. Kurtis Johnson, with his 15th and 16th, and Michael Keyes, Michael Rand and Cody Hodges, each with their first, completed the Heat attack in front of Jacob Mattes (31 saves).

Tension boiled in the second period when Knights’ d-man Mac Ferner hit a Heat player from behind.

Ferner earned a game misconduct for the hit and two more for his part in the resulting line brawl; he fought Marc McKenzie while Pantazopoulos tangled with Reece Forman and Saharchuk scrapped  Dominick Hodges.

Zack Dueck had 19 saves for the Knights.

The Knights visit the Kamloops Storm (13-8-2-4) Saturday at McArthur Island Arena, followed by the Heat Sunday in Chase.


Vernon Morning Star