The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League 2021-22 season begins Friday, Oct. 1. Leading into the season the league is providing a series of previews with the latest on each team.
The North Okanagan Knights head into play in the Bill Ohlhausen Division having promoted former assistant coach Liam McOnie to head coach and general manager following the departure of Dean McAmmond.
(F) Bryan Brew, Cade Enns, Kyle Bax; (D) John Kalmakoff, Tyler Jamieson, Tenzin Bogardis; (G) Jake Dubinsky.
The foursome of Brew, Enns, Bax and Kalmakoff give the Knights a strong veteran core that all suited up with the Knights during the last full KIJHL season in 2019/20. Enns led the Knights in scoring during the abbreviated 2020/21 campaign with four points in three games after finishing fifth in team scoring as a rookie with 23 points in 49 games. Dubinsky is expected to take the reins in goal.
Rookies to Watch:
(D) Brock Holliday – Rink Hockey Academy U18AAA – He is a hard-nosed, physical right-hand with offensive upside.
(D) Tyler Burke- Notre Dame Midget AAA – Skilled left-handed forward/defenseman with great vision and playmaking abilities.
McOnie believes he has a smart, skilled group who are responsible enough to play sound defensively, chip in at the offensive end and play an overall team game. With player development at the forefront, McOnie has set his sights on the Knights winning the Teck Cup Championship.
“Veteran presence and leadership are two things that are important for success in junior hockey,” says McOnie. “Having that, along with Jake Dubinsky in net, will be very good.”
That leadership group extends to their 18- and 19-year-olds and some returning first-year players. “They bring a lot of intangibles to our team and I think there is going to be a lot of buy-in from our group.”
“I want our team to play similar to the Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s very structured and responsible. Also dynamic offensively and a very high-tempo game,” says McOnie. “I like their discipline, the attention to detail. The focus that they bring every day is obviously second to none – they’ve won back-to-back Stanley Cups. The skill is obviously at a different level, but there is no way that it’s not impossible to replicate.”
(F) Owen Spannier – Okanagan Lakers (BCIHL)
(F) Zac Funk – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
(F) Steel Quiring – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
(D) Ethan Matchim – Swan Valley Stampeders (MJHL)
(F) Darius Makse – Swan Valley Stampeders (MJHL)