The third time was a charm for the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, as they defused the Kimberley Dynamiters in a decisive Game 5 victory on Friday at the Hawks Nest to capture the Kootenay Conference title.
A natural hat trick in the first period by Tyler Ghirardosi ignited the Hawks to a 5-2 win and B.V.’s first conference final series victory over the Dynamiters in three years.
“We knew what we were capable of, and we also knew that we hadn’t shown it yet,” said Nitehawks assistant coach Jeremy Cominotto. “But we definitely did tonight.”
Ghirardosi’s third goal of the game and eighth of the playoff turned out to be the game winner at the 9:25 mark of the opening frame. With B.V. on the power play, the Nitehawks worked the puck down low. Jaxen Gemmell found Sam Swanson in front, and Swanson fed Ghirardosi at the edge of the crease to put the Hawks up 3-1.
“It’s pretty exciting, a full crowd tonight, lots of energy,” said Ghirardosi. “It was kind of a scramble play. Sam just gave me a tap in basically, it was a great pass, right under the other guy’s stick.”
Getting off to a fast start, scoring early, and rejuvenating an anemic power play were at the top of the Nitehawks’ game plan. Ghirardosi scored just 2:29 into the opening frame when he gained control of the puck off a face off won by Damon Kramer and snapped it by Kimberley goalie Cody Campbell for the early lead.
Four minutes later, Ghirardosi tipped in a Ryan Terpsma point shot to put the Hawks up 2-0. The Dynamiters cut the lead in half just 48 seconds later, forcing a turnover in the neutral zone and breaking in on a 3-on-1. The Hawks netminder Tallon Kramer made a sprawling pad save off the cross-crease pass, but Devon Langelaar followed up and banged home the rebound.
But the Nitehawks answered with Ghiardosi’s hat trick, and after the Dynamiters’ Nolan Kurylo beat Kramer five-hole on a Kimberley power play, the Hawks’ Dylan Heppler restored the two-goal lead corralling a rebound off a toe save from Campbell on a McKoy Hauk point shot, and lifting it into the open net.
“The first goal was big, the second goal was big, and after they scored we responded positively,” said Cominotto. “And that’s the sign of a good team, that’s the sign of a championship team is the response you get after getting scored on. We talked about it before, staying even-keel and nothing was going to affect us, and I thought the guys did a really good job of staying level-headed.”
Kimberley outshot the Nitehawks 13-12 in the period but trailed 4-2 heading into the second. The game’s intensity picked up at the end of the first period when Kimberley defenceman James Farmer rattled Ghirardosi with a high hit. Farmer was sent off for a hit-to-the-head, but at the end of period two Ghirardosi seized the opportunity at payback. Just after Farmer stepped out from behind the net to deliver an outlet pass, the Hawks’ forward drove Farmer through the post with a bone-crushing hit. Although the hit resulted in a two-minute slashing call to Ghirardosi, it put a charge into the B.V. bench.
The scoreless middle frame was crucial for the Hawks as they killed off two back-to-back penalties, and kept the Dynamiters in check, neutralizing any potential momentum swing with a strong PK unit and timely saves from Kramer.
“Your goaltenders your best penalty killer, and I thought we did a really good job on the penalty kill throughout the series, and we were able to get our power play going this game so that’s a feel good for our guys, and that’s a feel good for our staff, and we’re just moving forward,” said Cominotto.
Nitehawks forward and Trail native Blake Sidoni tipped in a power-play goal from Dylan Heppler and Nolan Percival to make it 5-2 at 8:59 of the third period to finish off the scoring. BV then put a defensive lock on the Kimberley offence in the final frame limiting the Dynamiters to just five shots on goal for the victory and its first Kootenay Conference title since 2014.
For veteran captain Sam Swanson, the return to the KIJHL final is a welcome one since winning it all, (the KIJHL title, Cyclone and Keyston Cups) with the Nitehawks in his first KIJHL season in ‘14.
“It feels nice. It’s the third year we faced these guys and they’re a hell of a hockey team, but we stuck to our game and we’re pretty excited right now.”
After the Nitehawks split its opening two games at home, they went up two-games-to-one with a convincing 4-1 victory in Game 3 in Kimberley and looked poised to take the series in Game 4. However, the Dynamiters Campbell robbed the Hawks with a 32-save performance in a 1-0 Nitros victory to force the deciding Game 5 in Fruitvale.
“I thought we played some good hockey games over there,” said Swanson. “I thought we definitely out-chanced them we just didn’t execute very well. It was a little burning, but you sleep it off and you get back to it.”
The Nitehawks outshot Kimberley 36-27 and went 2-for-6 on the power play, while the Nitros were 1-for-8 with Ghirardosi earning player-of-the-game honours for B.V. and Kurylo for the Dynamiters.
Beaver Valley will face the Chase Heat in the KIJHL final. The Heat shocked the top-seed Osoyoos Coyotes in a 3-1 victory in Osoyoos on Friday to win the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference title.
“We’re going to enjoy this for a little bit,” added Swanson. “But we have the next round to look forward to, so we’re going to do some homework and get ready for it.”
The Nitehawks and Heat face off in Game 1 of the KIJHL championship final at the Beaver Valley Arena at 7 p.m. on Monday.