Midway through the second period Wednesday evening, the Osoyoos Coyotes had one of those gut-check moments.
After escaping the first period with a 1-0 lead, the Yotes (11-13-2) surrendered two goals to the visiting Princeton Posse (9-15-1-2) and found themselves in what could have been a slide to a bad home loss.
Instead, the team rallied and scored a 5-2 win that solidified their third-place standing in the KIJHL’s Okanagan division.
“I thought we had some jump in the first five minutes of the game and then gradually — minute by minute — took steps backwards,” said head coach Mark Chase of the game’s first 28 minutes. “If it hadn’t been for the line of Milo Labonte, Anthony Tulliani, and Lane Grunerud to take the step forward for us and model the way our club should play, we would have defeated ourselves.
“It took that line to inspire and uplift the group and demonstrate the importance of executing small technical details and doing so with intensity and a relentless approach.”
No doubt about it, Wednesday’s game was a character-builder for the club — the kind that suggests this young squad has finally come of age.
Brandon Della Paolera scored twice — including the game winner — to lead the Yotes, who led 1-0 after 20 minutes of play and 3-2 after 40.
Tyler Badger, Peter Michailides and Brock Marple — into an empty net — also scored for the Coyotes.
Ethan Schmor and Terrance Josephson replied for Princeton.
“Our power play was the difference in tonight’s game as well, going three-for-five,” said Chase. “Comparing the beginning of the season’s power play output to our last 10 games demonstrates a significant difference and is helping us win hockey games.”
The club’s penalty-kill also wasn’t half bad either: Osoyoos killed six-of-seven Princeton powerplays.
Daniel Paul got yet another of those stay-out-of-my-crease slashing penalties, but otherwise stood tall for the Coyotes, stopping 40 of 42 shots.
He had ample help out front, including a third-period effort by defenseman Ryan MacDonald, who made a crowd-pleasing block while playing without a stick.
“It was pure sacrifice,” said Chase. “He also had a sequence of multiple blocks back to back in the same shift.”
The Coyotes will look to continue their winning way when they host the Chase Heat (5-18-2) Saturday evening. The Heat will be on a southern swing through the Okanagan, playing in Summerland Friday.
Game time at Sun Bowl Arena Saturday is 7:35 p.m. The game sponsor is Spirit of the Game Society.