There were a number of questionmarks heading into the 2018-19 season for the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, but a convincing 7-2 win over the Fernie Ghostriders at the home opener on Saturday answered most of them.
“We can’t be upset about that start,” said Nitehawks GM Jamie Cominotto. “I think early season nerves, a lot of young players and first KI regular-season games, but once they got into it, they just played the way the style we want them to play this year.”
Nitehawks veteran Angus Amadio was named the Hawks’ game star, as the Calgary native scored twice and added an assist in the 7-2 B.V. victory.
Amadio scored the winner on a setup from Bradley Ross and Reese Tambellini with 1:23 remaining in the first period to break a 2-2 tie and send the Hawks to the dressing room with a 3-2 lead.
“They (Amadio, Ross, Tambellini) are going to be a huge key to our season,” said Cominotto. “Just like any team, you rely on your seasoned veterans and with Angus having two years in the league, and Brad in his third year, it really helps and settles the young guys down. When you have leaders like that, you can’t go wrong.”
Ross, a Trail product and one of just five returning Nitehawks veterans, also had a three point night (2G, 1A) as did Simon Nemethy (1G, 2A) who joins the KIJHL team after two seasons with the BC Major Midget Kootenay Ice.
With so few Nitehawks returning from last year’s team, the outlook for 2018-19 season was uncertain early on. However, the dominant victory over the Ghostriders and inspired play of both veterans and rookies in a pre-season where they went 4-3 gives fans and the Nitehawks coaching staff reason for optimism.
“All the rookies were pretty impressive,” said Cominotto. “We’ve been really excited about our young group just because they’re so eager to move on to the next level and get better. It creates that hunger which I think we need.”
Nemethy opened the scoring converting a Michael Hagen pass just four minutes into the first period. Less than two minutes later, B.V. rookie Jared Stocks made it 2-0 scoring his first goal as a Nitehawk with assists to Hagen and Marty Ingram.
Fernie forward Greg Susinski scored a pair of goals three minutes apart to knot the game at 2-2, but Amadio’s goal gave the Hawks the lead for good, and 18-year-old goalie Noah Decottignies shut the door the rest of the way stopping 18 of 20 shots for his first regular-season win as a Nitehawk.
Amadio scored his second of the night at 17:18 of the middle frame and Ross added two more in the period to give the Hawks a 6-2 lead, as the Hawks outshot Fernie 14-6 in the period.
Trail defenceman Jake Yuris completed the scoring midway through the third firing a power play goal past Fernie goalie Saran Virdee. The Nitehawks went 1-for-5 on the power play and outshot the Ghostriders 41-20.
Hawks veteran forwards Amadio, Ross, and Morgan Peace and d-men Dylan Kent and Yuris will lead the team, but proven talent like Nelson’s Tambellini, who played the past two seasons in Grand Forks, is a recent key acquisition.
“He’s just one of the elements we thought we lacked. He’s a big boy, he’s a leader and an agitator that really gets under the other team’s skin, and a player that you want on your team rather than playing against.”
Another Nitehawk player to watch is Calgary product, Hagen, one of the last cuts from the Trail Smoke Eaters camp.
“We committed to him out of spring camp, but we’re really excited because he’s phenomenal, great with the puck, and there was a time where I didn’t think we were actually going to get him back from Trail, he played that well.”
The Hawks will also ice a strong line up of home-grown kids for fans to cheer on. In addition to Ross and Yuris, the Ingram twins, Marty and Nathan, made the squad, along with d-men Jesse Ihas and Kody Stewart.
Following a gruelling six games-in-seven-days exhibition schedule, Beaver Valley opened the KIJHL season with only one game on the weekend, but will head into week 2 with three games on tap.
Trail plays at home on Friday against the Columbia Valley Rockies with the puck drop at 7:30 p.m. before heading to Nelson for a tilt against the Leafs on Saturday, and an afternoon game in Spokane on Sunday.
“If the first game of the season is any indication of how things are going to go, it is certainly something to build off of,” added Cominotto.