Opening weekend in the Prairie Junior Hockey League provided much excitement throughout, including the Fort Knox Junior Hockey Club who swept a home-and-home series with Pilot Butte Storm. It was a rematch of their first round playoff matchup last March where Fort Knox eliminated the Storm in seven games. The PJHL playoffs were halted at that point due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With several returning veterans and a solid group of newcomers Fort Knox have set their sights high this season after a 29-9-0-2 campaign last year, good enough for second place in the Bill Johnston Division just eight points back of the Regina Capitals.
Opening night at the Fort Qu’Appelle Rexentre turned into a battle of goaltenders with newcomer Cody Levesque leading the host to a 3-2 victory. The 20-year old from Carnduff made 27 saves while Rin Beny, Matthew Plews and Connor Giebel provided the offense.
Storm goaltender Riley Christison was much busier facing 40 shots on net. He was named the games second star of the game.
Levesque comes to Fort Knox with plenty of CJHL experience having played in the SJHL, NOJHL and SIJHL the past two seasons.
Beny scored the first goal of the season at 8:50 of the second with assists from Plews and JJ Gyorfi. Beny is another veteran who has played Junior A the past two seasons including 58 games with his hometown Melville Millionaires last season.
The teams switched venues on Saturday night with Pilot Butte hosting. Christison was solid between the pipes once again with 37 saves, but it was Fort Knox who ended on the winning side with a 4-3 overtime victory.
After a scoreless opening period the Storm struck first more than 37 minutes into the game. The lead would be short lived though as Colby Lubachowski evened things just :39 before second intermission.
Despite outshooting Pilot Butte in the game 42-21 Fort Knox needed two third period goals after falling behind on the scoreboard to force overtime. Taylor Schmidt gave the Storm a 2-1 advantage at 17:50 before Trey Stocker tied it at 15:55. Pilot Butte retook the lead again just 1:25 later when Schmidt beat goaltender Caelan Armstrong for his second of the game.
Gavin Doud tied the game once again on a powerplay tally at the 10:28 mark with assists from Shane Collins and Matthew McGrath. Despite plenty of offensive pressure the final half of the period the game would head to overtime tied at 3-3.
Fort Knox were credited with 21 shots in the third period, but it was the only shot of overtime that ended things when Jaxon Tait scored the game winner at 4:44. It was the third career game winning goal for Tait in 40 games with Fort Knox the past two+ seasons. Tait has split that time playing 42 games in the CJHL.
This week will see Fort Knox in another home-and-home series, this time facing the Regina Silver Foxes. Game one is scheduled for Thursday 7:30 PM at Rexentre with the venue change on Saturday night at Doug Wickenhieser Arena.