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COYOTES COACH PROMISES STRONG HOCKEY HEADING INTO REGULAR SEASON STRETCH RUN AND INTO THE PLAYOFFS
Fans of the Osoyoos Coyotes can look forward to some of the same fast-paced action they have witnessed during the club’s impressive five-game winning streak, says head coach and general manager Ken Law.
The Coyotes continued their excellent play by whipping Summerland 9-3 in Summerland Tuesday night.
With a dozen games left in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League regular season, the Coyotes are playing some of their best hockey of the season right now, said Law.
He promises much more of the same heading down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.
The Coyotes had a great weekend coming back from a 2-0 deficit against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats to score two third-period goals to send the game into overtime. The Coyotes completed the wild comeback by scoring early in overtime to steal the win.
On Saturday night against a very talented Sicamous Eagles club, the Coyotes played one of their best road games of the season and never trailed as they improved their winning streak to four games with a 5-2 victory.
The Coyotes, Princeton Posse and Kelowna Chiefs are all within one point of each other for top spot in the Okanagan Shuswap Division – Princeton has 48 points and Osoyoos and Kelowna each have 47 – before Tuesday night’s tilt in Summerland.
The Posse and Chiefs do hold a couple of games in hand over the Coyotes.
“We’re going to start playing fast-paced hockey and it’s going to be exciting,” says Law, about his team’s recent excellent play. “From now on it’s a hard-hitting, gritty team that’s going to play a full 60 minutes.”
The Coyotes started off the season strong, putting together an impressive 12-2 start that saw them climb to the top of the KIJHL standings.
However, that winning streak was followed by an extended losing streak that saw the team lose 13 of 15 games and drop from the top team in the league to third place in the Okanagan Shuswap Division.
In what has been a rollercoaster kind of season, the Coyotes have again started to play very solid and consistent hockey over the past month, which has again drawn them within striking distance of first place in their division.
Since December 5, the Coyotes have only lost a couple of games in regulation time. They did suffer three consecutive losses in overtime, but they picked up a point in those games.
They have picked up points in all but two games since the beginning of December.
What has changed?
“We got back into a more solid defensive work ethic,” says Law. “We’re not giving up the huge amount of shots against we were, and our goaltending has been improved.”
Some of those improvements may result from changes to the Coyote roster and lines.
Among the new players, the Coyotes picked up goaltender Joey MacConnell, who was playing for the New Mexico Renegades in the Western State Hockey League. In recent games, MacConnell has been starting in goal for the Coyotes.
MacConnell isn’t the only new player to come up from New Mexico. Kenny Orlando, who plays centre, is one of the more recent additions coming from the New Mexico Renegades.
Other recent additions include Hunter Behrens, a right defenceman originally from Colorado who played with the Dallas Ice Jets, as well as another defenceman, Travis Thomsen, who played for Columbia Valley in the KIJHL. Forward Liam Neary is another former member of the Columbia Valley Rockies who came to Osoyoos this fall.
The KIJHL already passed one trading deadline in mid December. Another deadline expires January 10 when all teams must have an active roster with a total of 23 maximum players and cards of which two must be goaltenders.
The season continues into February, with the Coyotes scheduled to play their last regular season game at home on February 16. Playoffs get underway the following week.
“We’re still striving to get as good as we can, especially with the second half of the season closing out,” says Law. “We always try for perfection come the playoffs. Really, everything else is just a rehearsal.”
Against Sicamous, Garrett Kucher scored the only goal of the first period to give the Coyotes a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Sicamous tied it early in the second period, but the Coyotes responded with goals from Colin Chmelka and Taylor Jordan one minute apart late in the period to give them a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Brandon Watson extended the lead to 4-1 early in the third period. After Sicamous scored a power-play goal midway through the final frame, Troy Maclise put the game out of reach for the Coyotes by scoring with seven minutes left.
MacConnell had a great game stopping 39 of 41 shots.
Against Creston Valley, the game was scoreless after 20 minutes, but the visitors scored two goals in the middle frame, before the Coyotes staged a comeback with goals from Alex Grupe and Cameron Dobransky in the third period.
Garrett Kucher was the hero scoring the winner a minute and a half into the extra frame. He was set up by Brandon Watson when the two managed to break through Creston’s defence line.
The Coyotes play in Penticton Sunday afternoon. Their next home game is Wednesday, Jan. 16 against Kelowna. Game time is 7:35 p.m. at the Sun Bowl Arena.