The Beaver Valley Nitehawks earned their second shut out in as many nights, backstopped by an unlikely source, in a 4-0 victory over a testy Spokane Braves team on Wednesday at the Beaver Valley Arena.
The Hawks only blemish in December came at the hands of the Braves, a 3-2 overtime loss in Spokane two weeks ago, so most hockey fans were expecting the Nitehawks to ice their best line up, not start an affiliate player (AP) in net.
With Hawks goaltender Grayson Sharpe out with illness, coach Terry Jones called up AP Drake Poirier from the Greater Trail Midget Rep team and awarded the Fruitvale native with the start rather than regular Hawks goaltender Brett Clark who shut out the Grand Forks Border Bruins 6-0 the pervious night.
“After school I got a call from Grayson who said he wasn’t feeling well,” said Jones. “So I got a hold of Drake, and we’ve been rotating the goalies, so Kevin (Limbert) and I talked about it really quick and we said, ‘Let’s just keep the rotation and give Draker Grayson’s chance,’ and we knew he was a capable goalie. He came in and did a great job.”
Poirier stopped all 33 shots on net for his first KIJHL win and shut out in his first game. The performance included a great save on a Braves breakaway early in the second period, where he held his ground and thwarted a nifty deke to preserve a 1-0 lead. The save gave the Hawks some jump and they replied with two quick goals to go up 3-0 heading into the third.
“It was pretty short notice, but I was pretty excited and ready to go,” said Poirier. “I had a little bit of jitters to start but I settled down pretty good after the first period there.”
Ryan Edwards opened the scoring 30 seconds in with a shorthanded marker that would hold up as the winning goal. Seven seconds after Archie McKinnon was sent off for tripping, Edwards let a shot go from outside the blue line that somehow eluded Braves goalie John Manlow.
The Braves had a great opportunity to reply with a two-man advantage late in the period but failed to capitalize, as Poirier was sharp on the penalty kill.
The Nitehawks dominated the second frame with Riley Brandt redirecting a McKinnon point shot by Manlow at 13:41 to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead. Three minutes later Brandt would dig the puck out of the corner and send a quick pass to Jacob Boyczuk standing all alone in front of the net, as he one-timed it home.
Brandt would complete the Gordie Howe hat trick (a goal, an assist, and a fight) at 11:20 of the third period, as he followed up a Taylor Stafford tilt, with a bout of his own against six-foot, 200-pound forward Koler Kanistanaux, who has one goal in 27 games for the Braves.
“I didn’t really think about it until I got into the dressing room after my fight, and found out I had the Gordie Howe hat trick,” said Brandt. “Scoring doesn’t really come too much, but since I’m a vet it feels like it’s coming a bit more. I’ve fought quite a bit in my two years of junior hockey, so it’s part of my game that’s for sure.”
Brandt re-joined the team after starting the year with the Trail Smoke Eaters and is happy to be back in B.V.
“It’s awesome, I love it, and I’m really excited to be back,” said Brandt. “It was one of the funnest years I had last year, and I’m loving it this year too.”
Edwards would ice it at 14:50 of the third period on a gift from Dallas Calvin. Calvin took a pass from Dan Holland and broke in front of the net, pulling the goalie across the crease, before dishing it back to Edwards standing by a yawning cage for the tap in.
The win puts the Nitehawks one point behind the Nelson Leafs in the battle for top spot in the Neil Murdoch division. The Leafs enjoyed a 10-point cushion at the end of November, but recent additions like Brandt and Holland has bolstered the Hawks lineup and cut the lead in a hurry.
Yet despite taking 17 of 18 points in its last nine games, the implacable Hawks’ coach still looks for improvement.
“I thought tonight was a really poor effort for us,” said Jones. “We didn’t have the same habits we had in certainly the last four or five games, we were pretty selfish with the puck, and we didn’t play a very good team game, but we found a way and that’s what good teams got to do.”
The Nitehawks have the week off for Christmas but will face their toughest test of the season when they return with two home-and-home series against Castlegar Dec. 27 and 28, and Nelson Dec. 29 and 31.