Nikkel for Storm's thoughts

North Okanagan goaltender pitches shutout in Game 3

MARK HUNTER / Kamloops Daily News
February 26, 2013 01:00 AM

Goaltender Dustin Nikkel, of the North Okanagan Knights, stopped everything the Kamloops Storm, including Josh Rasmussen, threw at him during Monday's KIJHL playoff game at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre. The Knights won the game 6-0 and can wrap up the playoff series Tuesday night.

The Kamloops Storm came unglued like a piece of five-dollar furniture on Monday.

The Storm lost 6-0 to the North Okanagan Knights in Game 3 of their best-of-seven KIJHL playoff series at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre. Down 3-0, Kamloops faces elimination in Game 4 tonight, 7 o'clock, at the Sport Centre.

The Knights deserve full marks for last night's victory, but the Storm certainly helped with undisciplined play. Kamloops gave its guests 10 power plays, and they responded by scoring on three of them. As the game got more and more out of hand, so did the Storm.

Storm head coach Brad Priestlay wasn't pleased with referee Brent Hazel, waiting on the home bench - the on-ice officials normally exit via the home team's bench - after the game to speak with him. When Hazel left the ice through the visitors' bench, Priestlay was furious.

Still, moments later, Priestlay bit his tongue.

"I don't want to get into any details," he said.

And a chippy game spilled off the ice, as Priestlay and North Okanagan head coach Kris Mallette spent much of the last two periods chirping between the benches.

"He had some displeasure as to some of the stickwork that was going on with our guys onto them," Priestlay said. "It's playoff hockey - if he wants to start chirping, he has to look at his own team as well.

"It's going both ways, and that's just playoff hockey. You've just got to deal with it and suck it up."

Mallette shrugged off the back-and-forth with Priestlay.

"Heat of the moment . . . it is what it is," offered Mallette. "It ultimately comes down to trying to keep your players' safety - that's what's in my mind."

At the end of the second period, Priestlay's father, Wayne, leaned over the railing and shouted at Mallette. A Knights fan got involved and ended up taking Priestlay to the ground.

Mallette said he didn't know the identity of the mystery Knights fan, but joked, "It wasn't my dad."

The Knights had beaten the visiting Storm 3-1 in Game 1 and 5-3 in Game 2 - both of those games were decided late, with Kamloops holding third-period leads in both.

This one, however, was over after the second period.

After an exciting, back-and-forth first period, the Storm ran into penalty trouble in the second. Kamloops gave the Knights a 15-second 5-on-3 early in the period, and Brett Hawrys made it pay when he finished off a nice passing play with Matty Saharchuk.

Not long after, Kamloops' Aaron Markin was awarded a penalty shot when a North Okanagan player closed his hand on the puck in the crease. Knights goaltender Dustin Nikkel read the deke perfectly and got his blocker on the puck.

The Knights finished the period with goals from Saharchuk and Mac Ferner - the public announcer accidentally called him, Mark, his father's name - and Hawrys, Colton Thibault and Steven Hawes piled on with goals in the third period.

"Our team is young and one of our best attributes is that we can skate really well," Mallette said. "On the big ice out here, that's something you have to do."

Nikkel made 23 saves in the victory. Storm goaltender Wade Moyls faced 42 shots.

The Storm faces incredibly long odds now and is desperate to extend the series to Game 5, which would be played Thursday in Armstrong. After three emotional losses, it will be hard to come back.

"They're disappointed - the guys have been working really hard the last three games," Priestlay said. "I feel that for how hard we're working, we deserved a better outcome.

"It takes four games to win a series, and I don't think we're out of it at all."


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