The Beaver Valley Nitehawks stormed out of the gate scoring four first-period goals on their way to a 7-1 pounding of the Castlegar Rebels on Tuesday in Castlegar.
Grande Prairie native McKoy Hauck netted a hat trick, and Mitch Foyle scored twice for the Nitehawks to hand Castlegar it’s first loss in seven games, while B.V. rolled to its 12th consecutive victory.
“We got off to a good start, got an early goal, and then had some lulls in the game, but managed to come out with a great win,” said Nitehawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “I liked the response after two games that were pretty average.”
It took just 59 seconds before Nitehawks forward Jaxen Gemmell converted a setup from Kevan McBean and Tyler Hartman to put the visitors up 1-0, and, two minutes and 40 seconds later, Mitch Foyle tallied what proved to be the winning goal taking a pass from Sam Swanson and beating Rebels goalie Chandler Billinghurst for a 2-0 Hawks lead.
Vince Bitonti cut the lead to one at 15:27, however, Foyle restored the two-goal lead finishing a dish from Tyler Ghirardosi midway through the period for his 12th goal and 22nd point in 18 games. Hauck scored his first-of-three on the night with a blistering drive from the point at 6:41 and a 4-1 B.V. lead, as B.V. outshot Castlegar 13-11 in the period.
The Nitehawks powerplay came alive in the second period. With Bitonti off for tripping, Gemmell and Tyler Hartman worked the puck to Hauck who one-timed it past Billinghurst at 7:21. Four minutes later, the Nitehawks pressed the repeat button, and Hauck completed the hat trick, beating Billinghurst from the top of the circle on a setup from Hartman and Swanson. The 20-year-old Hauck has eight points in his last three games to lead all Kootenay Conference defencemen in scoring with 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points in 36 games, and at six-foot-two, 190 pounds, the veteran d-man is a force on the Hawks blue line with 129 penalty minutes.
““He (Hauck) was shooting the puck well last night,” said Jones. “A couple really nice power-play goals and the key for him is getting the pucks through, and I thought his decision making to get pucks through was great … They were great shots.”
The Hawks took a 6-1 lead into the third period, as frustration began to set in for the Rebels. After the Castlegar’s Jacob Laplante was sent off for a too-many-men infraction, Bradley Ross scored the Nitehawks third power-play goal with Swanson and Blake Sidoni assisting.
The Nitehawks outshot the Rebels 36-24 with Tallon Kramer earning his league leading 26th win in net, while Swanson and Hartman each pitched in with three assists. Hauck and Bitonti were named players of the game for their respective teams.
The Castlegar tilt may be a preview of the Neil Murdoch division final with the 24-16-0-0 Rebels comfortably in second place in the Neil Murdoch Division standings, behind the 34-4-1-0 Nitehawks. The two teams face each other again on Friday in Castlegar, and the Nitehawks end their series against Neil Murdoch Division teams on Saturday in Nelson against the Leafs.
“The game is so hard all the time, and it’s 7-1, but it’s a hard game,” said Jones. “The guys are battling through, and I know Castlegar is missing some key guys, every game is a different animal. We have these guys (the Rebels) on Friday again, and it got a little testy on Tuesday night, so we’ll see where it gets to.”
The Hawks have just one home-game remaining against the Kimberley Dynamiters, Feb. 17, and wrap up their season two days later in Fernie, with their last four games against Eddie Murdoch Division teams.
Beaver Valley dominated their division and Kootenay Conference rivals this season punctuated by wins over Creston and a 9-2 victory over the conference-champion Dynamiters last month. The Hawks wrapped up the Murdoch Division regular-season title three weeks ago without much pushback from division teams. The shortened 47-game schedule and no action against the Okanagan-Shushwap Conference this year has saved teams money by limiting travel, however, it has detracted from the energy and excitement of previous years, and leaves the element of uncertainty for a potential Kootenay Conference champion when it comes down to a KIJHL final.
“There’s a part of that that’s good and there’s a part that’s bad,” added Jones. “I do not like the lack of crossovers. You don’t know what you’re going to get from the other divisions, we have no idea. There’s no measuring stick.”
Playoffs are scheduled to start Feb. 24, with Beaver Valley facing the fourth seed in the Murdoch Division.