Grizzlies topple division-leading Knights to salvage weekend

Revelstoke’s Chevy Hantula scored his first ever KIJHL goal in front of 392 hometown fans in Saturday’s 6-2 win over the North Okanagan Knights. - Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review
Revelstoke’s Chevy Hantula scored his first ever KIJHL goal in front of 392 hometown fans in Saturday’s 6-2 win over the North Okanagan Knights.
— image credit: Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review

It was a bold move by coach Kevin Kraus – done to get his team going after a disappointing loss and what he referred to as “the worst defensive hockey I’ve seen in a while.”

He called out his veterans.

“Not just my captains but veteran players all around, they weren’t acting like veteran players,” he said. “A key to the beginning of the season is getting your veteran guys to teach your young guys how to win. I think we were too lose and immature and I called them out for that. Trying to get my boys to mature into good human beings and translate that into good hockey.”

Kraus made the move on Saturday, the day after the Revelstoke Grizzlies lost to the Princeton Posse and shortly before taking the ice against the North Okanagan Knights, the top team in the conference.

The team responded, trouncing the Knights 6-2, with goals coming from five different players and all four lines.

On Friday, the Grizzlies enjoyed a 5.5 hour bus ride to Princeton for the game against the Posse. Revelstoke scored first, with Spencer Samuel potting his first of two goals on the night at 13:43 of the first. the lead didn’t last long and just over a minute later, the Grizzlies found themselves down 2-1. Samuel scored his second to even it up before the period was over but, still, Kraus was not happy with the way his team played.

“It snowballed through the game,” he said. “We came out of the period 2-2 but we’d already done some damage and put some bad habits into our game that night.”

Lane Erickson scored at 8:03 of the second and Princeton was able to hold on for a 3-2 win. A 12 minute blow to the head penalty to captain Darnel St. Pierre with only 13:30 to go didn’t help, forcing Revelstoke to finish the game with only three defencemen.

On Saturday, the Grizzlies prepared to host the Knights but before the game, Kraus called a meeting to go over the leadership issues.

At first, the talk didn’t seem to work. Brett Hawrys scored for NOK only 2:24 into the game. Chevy Hantula tied the game with his first KIJHL goal four minutes later but Josh Ellis managed to give NOK back the lead when he deflected a point shot through goaltender Conrad McMillan’s legs.

Once again, Kraus challenged his players for a response. This time he got it.

First, Spenser Baldock pounced on a loose puck in front to tie the game at 13:10 of the second. Samuel scored his first of the night when an Austin Donaldson shot bounced off a player in front and landed right on his stick, with nothing but net in front.

Tyler Reay made it 4-2 when he deflected in a Jordan Furlane point shot with 1:35 left in the second.

The Knights changed goaltenders to start the third period, but it didn’t change the momentum. Samuel scored his 18th goal of the season when Reay fed him a nice cross-ice pass only 30 seconds into the period.

Dylan Ossman sealed the victory for Revelstoke when he deked out a NOK defenceman and lifted the puck into the net.

A season’s best 392 people were at the game.

Kraus hopes the team can build on the momentum of Saturday’s win going into the team’s three games this weekend. On Friday, the Grizzlies are in Kelowna to face the Chiefs. On Saturday, Revelstoke plays host to the Chase Heat. On Sunday, Revelstoke is in Kamloops for a game against the Storm.

Kraus, who has been forced to dress only four defencemen lately, said he doesn’t expect anyone back from the injured list for at least two weeks. He might look for a replacement, depending on how severe the various injuries turn out to be.

As of press time, the Grizzlies remain in fourth place in their division, seven points back of NOK and six back of Kamloops, but with two and three games in hand on those teams respectively. Sicamous is in third place in the competitive Doug Birks Division, five points up on Revelstoke.

“The divisional games are always huge,” said Kraus. “Those are four point games for us.”

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