By Richard McGuire
Special to the Chronicle
At first it appeared Saturday night that the Osoyoos Coyotes would finish an otherwise very successful regular hockey season with a pathetic whimper.
The division-leading Coyotes were trailing 4-1 at the end of the first period to the last-place North Okanagan Knights.
The night before, the Coyotes lost a match in Revelstoke by a lopsided 10-4.
Saturday’s game didn’t count for anything in terms of standings or playoff pecking order, but it could affect the morale of the team as they head into playoffs this Friday against the Princeton Posse.
The Knights hammered the Coyotes, who didn’t seem to be trying.
But then something happened. Whether it was a pep talk in the dressing room or simply a burst of energy, but when the Coyotes stepped onto the ice at the start of the second period, they were a different team.
The real turning point came six minutes into the second period when U.S. import Jack McNamara skated down the ice to score a shorthanded goal for the Yotes.
Less than two minutes later, McNamara added another and suddenly the Coyotes were back in the game.
Not to be outdone, fellow U.S. import Jackson Barrett added an unassisted goal a minute later and then a second one two minutes after that. Suddenly the Coyotes were back in the lead at 5-4.
But it didn’t end there. A few minutes later, Colin Bell added a power play goal to end the second period with the Yotes up 6-4.
In the second and third periods, the Coyotes skated circles around the Knights, who didn’t know what hit them. In the second period, Osoyoos outshot North Okanagan 17-9 and in the third period 15-3.
In the final period, the Coyotes added two more power play goals – scored by Austin Cleaver and Carter Shannon – to end the game with an 8-4 win for the home team.
That’s seven unanswered Coyote goals in a row after trailing 4-1.
Osoyoos has two top goalies in Daniel Paul and Liam Aitken, but both have bad nights.
In Friday’s game in Revelstoke, Paul was pulled from the net with four minutes remaining in the second period after letting in his sixth goal, and Aitken took over.
Then on Saturday, Aiken suffered the same fate, being pulled in the final minutes of the first period after allowing in a fourth goal. Paul made up for the previous night, guarding the net for almost 42 minutes without allowing in a single goal.
Friday’s game in Revelstoke was going to be a challenge with the Grizzlies being the top team in the conference, well ahead of rivals, now with 73 points. That makes them the second-place team in the entire league after the Kimberley Dynamiters.
And it didn’t start well for Osoyoos, with Revelstoke scoring three first-period goals before Judd Repole managed to score on a power play late in the period.
The second period was much the same. Revelstoke added three goals before Shannon scored late in the period to end it with the Grizzlies up 6-2.
In the third period, Revelstoke pummeled the Coyotes, added another four goals to make it 10-2.
Finally, late in the period, Bell and Sam Reinbolt scored two goals for the Coyotes to end it 10-4.
The two weekend games followed a Wednesday game last week when the Coyotes played North Okanagan in Armstrong. That game ended in a 4-4 tie after two scoreless periods of overtime.
The Knights tied the game on a power play with just 44 seconds remaining in the third period after pulling goalie Zach Willms for an extra attacker.
In Wednesday’s game, Shannon scored two goals – one on a power play.
It was the other Carter, Carter Robinson, who opened the scoring late in the first period.
Moments later, Levi Harris of the Knights responded with his first of two goals, unassisted.
Shannon scored both his goals early in the second period to give the Coyotes a 3-1 lead.
But the Knights followed with two power-play goals and once again the game was tied at 3-3 going into the third period.
Late in the third period, the Coyotes again took the lead when Cleaver delivered on a power play. Repole and Shannon assisted.
The Knights tied the score in the final minute of the third period, forcing two scoreless five-minute periods of overtime.
Surprisingly, there were three penalties in the overtime periods with the Knights getting two and the Coyotes one. Neither team was able to capitalize, despite both teams having power-play success in regulation time, managing a total of five power-play goals between them.
The Coyotes open the playoffs next Friday, Feb. 23 on home ice against the Princeton Posse, with the second game also in Osoyoos the following night.
The Coyotes then travel to Princeton for games three and four on Monday, Feb. 26 and Tuesday, Feb. 27.
In the other semi-final playoff series in the Okanagan Division, the Kelowna Chiefs squeezed past the Summerland Steam to end the season up by a single point.
This gives Kelowna the home-ice advantage to start their series.