Hustle and heart Sets us apart.
The KIJHL North Okanagan Knights have vastly improved all three phases of their game.
Determined to better last year’s 15-win season, Bryant Perrier put on some major highway kilometers off-season recruiting.
And the head coach/GM of the North Okanagan Knights likes what he sees as the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League approaches.
“We’ve drastically improved our team, from the goaltending out,” said Perrier. ” We took a different approach with our recruiting and I went to Alberta. We looked in our backyard first and we knew we had to improve our scoring and get some puck-moving d-men, players with a high hockey IQ, and we’ve done that.”
The Knights open the Junior B season Friday night in Princeton versus the Posse, and Perrier’s got piles of paperwork to sift through with 26 players still in camp, including nine returnees.
Perrier brought in three prize 17-year-old prospects from the Okotoks Midget Oilers program but he had to file inter-provincial transfer appeals with B.C. Hockey. He is confident all three appeals will be approved, but centre Ben Jossinet, left winger Jaryd Hibbert and blueliner Jason Scheible may not be in the lineup Friday.
The Knights’ home opener goes Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against the Sicamous Eagles at Nor-Val Sports Centre.
Dean Whitcomb of Prince George, Jaden Hay of Grindrod and Brady Marzocco of Armstrong are returnees expected to jump-start the offence.
Whitcomb rang up 19 goals and 37 points for the goal-challenged Knights last season, while Marzocco produced 20 goals and 36 points and Hay compiled 14 goals and 29 points in just 37 games.
Vernon’s Jason Shaigec is back on the back end after a 17-point rookie campaign. The other returnees are d-men Jeff Schinkler of Peachland, Drayton Martin of Kelowna and forwards Carl Main and Riley Swiscoski, both of Vernon, and Levi Harris of Oliver.
The Knights parlayed a hat trick from rookie Alec McLeod (Calgary Midget Royals) in a 7-1 ambushing of the Eagles Monday night in Sicamous.
Hay, with a deuce, Quebec rookie Justin Miron and Main had the other goals in front of first-year goalie Zach Willms of Camrose.
Kyle Sherwood of Vernon, Scheible and Tyler Olsen of Calgary supplied snipes as North Okanagan dispatched the Eagles 3-0 Sunday night at Kal Tire Place in Vernon. Willms and Nick Ewanychuk of Calgary shared the shutout.
The Knights stopped the Kamloops Storm 3-1 Friday night in Vernon on goals from Brett Wilson of Summerland (2) and Miron. Willms and Ewanychuk were in the crease.
The Knights released hustling Armstrong Midget Tier 4 forward Matt Dolinar and Wyatt Kelly of Kelowna.
Graham Watkins and Liam McOnie, both former Knights, are the assistant coahes.
“Liam will be our goalie coach while he works for Eli Wilson,” said Perrier. “We hope to have Liam come in and work with our goalies at least twice a month.”
The Knights, who were swept by the Osoyoos Coyotes (one overtime game) in the first round of last year’s playoffs, play six times in September with October their busiest month with 10 tilts.
The Knights are tentatively scheduled to play Kamloops on Saturday, Nov. 18 at the new $20 million Quesnel Arena. Quesnel used to have a franchise in the B.C. Hockey League.
North Okanagan hosts the Kelowna Chiefs Friday, Dec. 22 before taking a Christmas break.