Kelowna Sparta's home debut was so successful that it ensured an encore.
By sweeping a two-game homestand over the North Island Capitals on the weekend — winning 4-1 on Friday and 9-3 on Saturday at CNC — Sparta secured home-ice advantage in the Senior AA men's hockey provincial playdowns.
Sparta will host Powell River in the semifinals, slated for Feb. 23 and Feb. 24, both 8:30 p.m. puck-drops at CNC. The winner of that series will face the winner of North Island and South Island for one berth to the Coy Cup in Williams Lake, March 27-31.
Against North Island, Shane Mainprize backstopped both wins with 30- and 21-save efforts as Sparta drew more than 300 fans each night to CNC and Boomers Bar & Grill.
Friday's opener was a close, hard-hitting contest that saw Kelowna's Taylor Jordan open the scoring on a power play midway through the second period and then set up another man-advantage marker by Aaron Buat that stood up as the winner.
Marcel Fuchs and Scott Latwat also scored for Sparta, which outshot the visiting Capitals 54-31.
After a scoreless first period, Jordan gave Kelowna the lead in the middle frame, but North Island responded with a power-play goal of its own 30 seconds into the third period to pull even before Sparta netted three unanswered goals.
In Saturday's rematch, Sparta led 2-1 and 7-3 at the period breaks en route to a more convincing victory — again outshooting the Capitals by a wide margin, 57-24.
Buat led the way with a hat trick and Tylor Branzsen scored twice, while Matt Elia, Steve Koshey, Ty Moses and assistant captain Kelly Loudoun tacked on singles. Jordan and Jamie Jensen factored into the offence with two assists each.
For the two-game series against Powell River, fans can buy tickets at the door or at kelownasparta.com/tickets/. Admission is $10 per game, with kids 12-and-under getting in free.
-Larry Fisher, The Daily Courier