ARMSTRONG — If playing on the road wasn’t enough of a challenge for an Osoyoos Coyotes team looking to end a six-game losing skid, there was a novel way to aggravate the situation.
Start the game playing four-on-five hockey — which is exactly what the Yotes did Wednesday evening in Armstrong.
Brandon Della Paolera was whistled for a warm-up violation — he shot the puck toward the opposing team’s net as the pre-game skate ended — to send the Yotes to the opening faceoff with just four skaters.
From there, despite some inspired play from the team during the second period, it just got worse.
After it was all said and done, the Coyotes (12-20-2-1) travelled a snowy Hwy. 97 in the dark, coming home with a 7-3 loss to the North Okanagan Knights (11-21-0-1) after enduring yet another trick these young dawgs seemed to have mastered — allowing a single-period multi-goal outburst.
It was the third time in as many games that the Coyotes have turned an early lead into an ugly loss.
“I don’t know what to say,” was all head coach Mark Chase could say after this game.
On paper, this was a game his club should have won — was winning through 40 minutes of play.
Instead it served up yet another example of the maturing required of a young hockey team — remember a dozen and a half of these Coyotes are still pups — that is showing it can play with the KIJHL’s best if it can only find a way to stop shooting itself in the foot.
After surviving the opening-game PK, the Coyotes quickly put themselves on the board, Seth Kriese scoring just under four minutes in.
The Knight’s Kevin-Thomas Walter scored on an unassisted effort less than a minute later to tie the game at 1-1 but the Yotes took control again with 14:54 remaining when Della Paolera atoned for his pre-game antics.
Alec McLeod would score with 1:14 remaining in the first frame to send the teams to the second knotted at 2-2.
Peter Michailides’ 13th goal of the season was the lone goal of the second period.
The Coyotes would give up five goals over the final 20 minutes — Cole Haberlack, Vineet Kaila, Jett Saharchuk, Jordan Smith and Cameron McKenzie (an empty-netter) scoring for the Knights — while managing just three shots on Knights netminder Caedon Bellmann.
Over all, Osoyoos managed 21 shots and gave up 37 to the homeside, 29 on starter Bailey Monteith and eight more on Daniel Paul, who went into the pipes seven minutes into the third.
Chase, who admits he’s got some learning to do himself as he deals with this frustrating turn of events, was planning to seek advice from some of his professional hockey mentors over the next couple of days as the Coyotes come home — licking some wounds — for a three-game home stand.
The Coyotes come home with a potential logjam for the Okanagan division’s last two playoff spots nipping at their heels.
The Coyotes have Princeton (11-22-1-2) in the Sun Bowl Friday evening, then travel to Oliver for a Sunday afternoon rematch against the Knights.
North Okanagan’s win moves the team to within five points of the Coyotes for the division’s third-seed. The Knights have played two fewer games. The Posse sit two points back of the Coyotes, making Friday evening’s contest a pivotal one.