The Thanksgiving weekend was undoubtedly the Beaver Valley Nitehawks’ finest in the young season, as the Hawks skated to a 2-1 victory over the Nelson Leafs Friday, and followed that up with a 5-1 drubbing of the Golden Rockets at home on Saturday.
Friday’s match against the Neil Murdoch Division leading Leafs in Nelson was crucial for a Beaver Valley team that has lacked consistency this season. B.V. lost to Nelson 1-0 in their opening season match and did not win back-to-back games through all of September. The Hawks are looking to duplicate last year’s team that after a rocky start went 8-and-0 in October.
“You have to respect a team that lost in overtime of the Western Canadian Championship,” coach Mario DiBella told the Nelson Star. “When they come out to play they come prepared and they always play for 60 minutes. We, unfortunately, did not come to play the first part of the game and consequently gave up opportunities.”
The Hawks Aiden Browell netted what proved to be the winning tally early in the second period. Blake Sidoni fed Browell from behind the net, and the Fruitvale native made no mistake, one-timing it by Leafs goalie Quinn Yeager for a 2-0 B.V. lead.
Despite still carrying just four defencemen, the Hawks seem to have found their form, and are playing with speed, grit, and confidence, the hallmarks of their 2017 KIJHL championship team.
B.V. drew first blood 13 minutes into the game. Bradley Ross corralled the puck in the slot and wired it through traffic and past Yeager for a 1-0 lead.
Beaver Valley continued to press and kept the Leafs off-balance with a quick and punishing forecheck. Yeager kept the score close for the Leafs, robbing Hawks leading scorer Dylan Heppler on a breakaway, and Nelson countered with one of their own early in the third. Logan Wullum jumped on a loose puck and fired a backhand past Hawks goalie Owen Sikkes for a shorthanded goal. Yet, that’s all the Leafs could manage as Beaver Valley’s defence stifled the Leafs attack limiting Nelson to just eight shots on goal in the final frame.
The Hawks outshot the Leafs 24-20 and went 0-for-3 on the power play, while Nelson was 0-for-1. Browell was named the Nitehawks player of the game and Wullum earned the nod for the Leafs.
In Saturday’s match up against Golden, Dylan Heppler scored twice including the winning goal in a 5-1 Nitehawks victory.
Browell set up the winning goal, head-manning the puck to Heppler who burst by the Golden defence and fired a shot high glove on Golden goalie Calum Humble for a 2-0 lead with 2:19 to play in the first period.
Like the Leafs the previous night, the Rockets’ offence sputtered, and its defence, while big and physical, couldn’t keep up with the Hawks pace.
Nitehawks defenceman Evan Gorman opened the scoring with his third of the year on a power play at 13:30 of the first period. Heppler’s game winner put the Hawks up 2-0 before the period was out, as B.V. outshot the Rockets 17-2 in the period.
With the Nitehawks on the penalty kill, Calgary native Angus Amadio netted his second of the campaign when he took a pass from Tommy McConnachie and wristed it five-hole on Humble for a shorthanded tally at 16:09 of the second period.
Heppler made it 4-0 when he took a long stretch-pass from defenceman Sam Swanson in the Hawks zone, broke in all alone, faked the shot, and walked around Humble in what was a piece of jaw-dropping hockey wizardry. The Warner, Alberta native currently sits tied for third in league scoring with nine goals and 17 points.
Ross capped off the scoring for B.V. two minutes into the third period, and the Rockets got on the board midway through the third on a goal from Kade Garritty.
The Hawks outshot the Rockets 43-17 and were 1-for-5 on the power play and perfect on the PK. Heppler was named the Hawks player of the game, and Humble earned the honour for the Rockets.
The Nitehawks are on the road this weekend and face the Rockets in Golden on Friday and the Columbia Valley Rockies on Saturday.