Knights left to chase Storm as series moves to Vernon

MARK HUNTER / Kamloops Daily News
March 2, 2012 01:00 AM

The puck bounces off of North Okanagan goaltender Dustin Nikkel on a scoring attempt by Jacky Lu (10) of the Kamloops Storm. At left is Bryce Koch of the Knights.

If you're going to score the most important goal of the season, you might as well do it with some style.

Chase Edwards scored 1:51 into overtime Thursday to lead the Kamloops Storm to a 4-3 victory over the North Okanagan Knights in Game 5 of a KIJHL playoff series at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.

The Storm now leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, with Game 6 scheduled for tonight in Vernon. Game 7, if needed, will be played at the Sport Centre on Saturday at 7 p.m.

If there was ever a way to finish off an excellent hockey game, it was the way Edwards did it last night.

The 20-year-old winger picked up a loose puck at the Storm blue-line and sped down the right wing into the North Okanagan zone. He cut in front of Knights goaltender Dustin Nikkel and calmly fired a backhand into the top right corner.

"I guess I kind of got lucky," shrugged Edwards, who scored 45 goals in 50 regular-season games. "The D-man fumbled it at the blue-line and I came in. . . . I saw an opening in the net and put it in."

That brought the crowd to its feet and ended an exciting, back-and-forth game.

The Storm scored twice in the first four minutes of the first period, but the Knights tied it with two goals in the first two minutes of the second. The teams traded goals late in the second.

It was a game that could have been 7-7 or 8-8, had the goaltenders not played well. Nikkel made 46 saves, while Kamloops' Marcus Beesley had 36.

And it was the type of game you expect to see in the playoffs.

"I thought we played very well," said Storm head coach Geoff Smith. "We played hard and they played hard - it was a good hockey game, and I'm sure the fans liked it."

Kamloops was missing three key players, including injured defencemen Karan Toor and Daniel Buchanan - Smith said they're out for at least the remainder of the series with "upper-body" injuries. Leading scorer Colten DeFrias served a one-game suspension for a late checking-from-behind penalty he picked up Tuesday in Armstrong.

In their places, the Storm got a great game from Ryan Skinner, a defenceman who played forward Thursday, and Diego Cuglietta, who scored two goals and could have had two or three more.

"Diego, he had a heck of a game," Smith said. "And Tuesday, we had a poor game, but Diego played really well. For a 16-year-old kid to show that kind of character in the playoffs, that's really good."

Mattia Bortolotto had the Storm's other goal. Brett Hawrys, Thomas Swales and Steven Pantazopoulous had the goals for the Knights.

The Storm will have a chance to close out the series today. If it plays like it did in its first two road games of the postseason - 3-2 and 3-0 losses in Armstrong on Monday and Tuesday - it can expect to play Game 7.

"We're going to have to come out hitting, be physical, get pucks deep," Edwards said. "Same as we did tonight."

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