Following an encouraging start against the Fernie Ghostriders in the first week of the KIJHL season, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks plunge into Week 2 with three games in three days this weekend.
B.V. hosts the Columbia Valley Rockies at the Hawks Nest tonight, then play Murdoch Division rival Leafs in Nelson on Saturday and the Braves in Spokane Sunday afternoon.
“It’s a real test for our guys early on, but I think they’re up to the challenge,” said Nitehawks GM Jamie Cominotto. “We’ll have a good week here, then get right into it against Columbia Valley, Nelson, and then Spokane on Sunday.”
The Hawks coaching staff was impressed with the Hawks’ performance in the 7-2 victory over the Ghostriders, but B.V. will face a much improved Rockies team on Friday at home, then face likely their toughest test to date against Nelson Saturday.
“I think there is going to be lots of parity throughout the league, being the first weekend it’s so tough to tell whose really going to be strong. It’ll take a few games, maybe 10 games, to see who is going to be the front runner.”
Columbia Valley rolled over the Summerland Steam 5-2 in their opener on Friday, then threw 46 shots at the Grand Forks net in a 3-2 victory Saturday.
“Our returning players got a taste of what playoff success is like and with some of the roster changes we’ve made and our leadership team coming back, our expectations are through the roof,” Rockies head coach Wade Dubielewicz told the Columbia Valley Pioneer.
The Rockies upgraded their goaltending, acquiring 19-year-old puck-stopper Ben Kelsch from the Leafs and signed former Major Midget Kootenay Ice forward Johnny Elias. With a full slate of returning 20-year-old veterans and a ton of speed and skill up front, Dubielewicz intends to build on the momentum generated from the Rockies’ playoff run last year when they upended the number-2 seed Creston Valley Thunder Cats in the first round.
“I feel like we finally have the right group of returning players to lead our highly talented younger guys in the right direction. You put those things together and I don’t think there’s anything but success coming our way.”
The Nitehawks have just five veteran players returning, but a healthy contingent of rookies led by another Midget Ice product, Simon Nemethy, who kicked off his campaign with three points against Fernie, should help the Hawks through any early growing pains.
“Nem’s a big kid. I really didn’t know what to expect from him, but having watched him in the exhibition series I was really impressed,” said Cominotto. “He’s quick on pucks, he really pressures the ‘D’ well and with any sort of puck luck I think he can put up a really great season.”
While the Nitehawks were disappointed to learn that veteran forward Jaxen Gemmell would not be returning to the Nest, late additions like forward Reece Tambellini and defenceman Luke Woodrow should restore the Nitehawks talent level.
Another big concern for B.V. was the absence of a proven starter between the pipes. The Hawks signed 18-year-old Calgary products Noah Decottignies and Jacob Romanowski in an effort to fill that void.
“Our goaltending, we really were unsure going in what we were going to run into. But Noah, since he’s got here, has shown a sense of calm and confidence in the net.”
Beaver Valley is just one of two teams in the Kootenay Conference that has played only one game, and can make a statement this weekend against Columbia Valley, Nelson, and Spokane.
“We really hadn’t had a practice (before the Fernie game) so getting through that first game and then heading into this week and being able to work with the guys and having some practices under our belt, I think it will really help,” added Cominotto. “But I think just having the result we did with no practices really speaks to the type of team, the type of players we have this year.”
The Nitehawks host the Rockies at the Beaver Valley Arena at 7:30 p.m. tonight .