By Richard McGuire
Special to the Chronicle
Three wins in the past week, two on the weekend, have brought the Coyotes a step closer to finishing the season in first place in their division.
Osoyoos now leads second-place Summerland by 10 points with just seven Coyote games remaining.
The Coyotes blew out the Sicamous Eagles 9-1 Saturday night at the Sun Bowl Arena after winning 2-1 in overtime the night before in Summerland. The Coyotes also beat the Posse 3-1 in Princeton last Wednesday night.
Daniel Paul was in net for the Coyotes in all three games, only allowing one goal per game, while facing 100 shots in all.
Friday night’s game in Summerland was closely fought between two strong teams, both battling for first place in the Okanagan Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).
Goaltenders Paul for Osoyoos and Matthew Huber for Summerland were both stars of the game as they faced 37 and 38 shots respectively but kept scoring low.
There was no scoring in the first period.
Summerland took a 1-0 lead in the second period when Lucas Jirousek scored on a penalty shot.
Then, with less than eight minutes remaining in the third period, Hunter Johnson scored unassisted for Osoyoos to tie the game 1-1 and put it into overtime.
Less than two minutes into the first overtime period, Carter Robinson score the winning goal, set up by Colin Bell.
Saturday’s game pitted Osoyoos – the strongest team in the Okanagan Division – against Sicamous, the bottom team in the Doug Birks Division. Only the Golden Rockets have fared worse than Sicamous this season in the KIJHL.
Levi Holz opened scoring on a power play in the first period.
Just before the period’s final minute, Jack McNamara flipped the puck in from close range to make it 2-0.
In the second period, the Coyotes scored three unanswered goals and outshot the Eagles 22-11.
Goals were scored by Jackson Barrett, Carter Robinson and Sam Reinbolt, ending the period with the Yotes up 5-0.
The Coyotes added three more goals in third period before Sicamous scored their only goal.
Those goals were scored by Connor Onstein, Carter Shannon and Sunil Sahota, who scored on a power play.
Finally, Brandon Onstein added one more to end the game 9-1 for the Coyotes.
In last Wednesday’s game in Princeton, the Coyotes were outshot in all three periods, but thanks to strong goaltending by Paul, they pulled off a 3-1 win.
The Princeton Posse outshot the Coyotes 36-27 in the game and 15-9 in the first period. Nonetheless, the only scoring in the first period was two goals by the Coyotes.
Robinson scored in the opening minutes, assisted by Seth Kriese.
Then, just past the period’s halfway mark, Connor Onstein made it 2-0 for Osoyoos. Reinbolt assisted.
Princeton got the only goal of the second period and their only goal of the game late in the period.
Finally, Brock Marple scored an unassisted short-handed goal early in the third period, ending the game in a 3-1 win for Osoyoos.
Princeton pulled goalie Bobby Milligan for an extra attacker, but neither team managed to capitalize.
Realistically, Summerland is the only team that could threaten the Coyotes’ hold on first place, but it’s still theoretically possible, though highly unlikely, that Kelowna could squeak to the top.
Kelowna’s status is likely to be settled with the Coyotes play them this Wednesday at the Sun Bowl Arena and again, also in Osoyoos, next Saturday, Feb. 3.