A hot goalie and a 4-1 Chase Heat lead wasn’t enough to hold off the Beaver Valley Nitehawks attack in Game 2 of the KIJHL final, as the Kootenay Conference champions battled tooth and nail for a 5-4 victory on Tuesday night at the B.V. Arena.
Beaver Valley forward Bradley Ross scored twice and Fruitvale native Aiden Browell notched the winning goal for the Hawks to complete an improbable 5-4 come-from-behind victory and lead the best-of-five final series two games to none.
“I thought we came out really good, we had some great opportunities early but we didn’t score,” said Nitehawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “We made some mistakes defensively, we really broke down and I thought a couple Tallon should have had and that’s unusual for him.”
Chase scored two minutes into the game when Josh Bourne beat B.V. goalie Tallon Kramer to put the Heat up 1-0 on the power play. Michael Fidanza and Cory Loring added two more before the 12-minute mark to go up 3-0 in front of a stunned capacity crowd.
B.V. got on the board on a Dylan Kent power-play goal at 2:11. The Beaumont native jumped up in the rush and finished a pretty three-way passing play with Tyler Hartman and Kyle Hope, firing a laser from the slot that beat Heat goalie Nic Bruyere high glove side. But Chase responded 10 seconds later when Kolten Moore tapped in a cross-crease pass from Loring to make it 4-1 heading into the middle frame.
“The 4-1 goal could have deflated us but we came out in that second period and got a couple great plays from Brad Ross, and it was just a matter of sticking with the plan,” said Jones.
The Hawks regrouped and refocused in the second stanza and came out determined and relentless. B.V. peppered the Heat goalie who was unbeatable early on.
After Chase’s top-point getter Fidanza was given an extra two for cross-checking Jaxen Gemmell, the Hawks went on the power play, and Ross redirected a shot from Sam Swanson to cut the lead to two at 13:20. The Hawks offensive push continued unabated as B.V. d-man Kevan McBean jumped up on the forecheck, forced a turnover behind the Heat net, and fed Ross in front who one-timed a low, hard drive stick side to make it 4-3.
“It feels good,” said Ross. “We’ve been working hard, doing our jobs, going to the net hard, finding rebounds, finding pucks, putting everything on net and they’re just going in for us.”
Despite the three-goal deficit, Ross says the Hawks were confident that a comeback was in the making when the team returned to the ice for the second period.
“There was a little concern (being behind), but I think it kind of died down in the intermission. We’ve come back from worse before. We knew we could do it, we were dominant, outshooting them, there was just something deep down that we knew we would come back.”
The Nitehawks outshot the Heat 15-4 in the middle frame and looked for the equalizer in the third where special teams turned out to be the difference.
The Nitehawks and Heat traded power plays midway through the third, and four seconds after the Heat’s Mason Palaga was sent off for hooking, McKoy Hauck unleashed a point shot that rocketed by a screened Bruyere to tie it at 10:43.
The Heat had their own power-play opportunity a minute later when McBean was penalized for hooking, but the Hawks penalty kill came up big, and 30 seconds after the kill, Jake Yuris fired a shot from the point that Browell knocked down in front, turned and beat Bruyere with a low quick shot for a 5-4 Nitehawks lead with 7:37 remaining.
Chase had another power-play chance when Gemmell was sent off for slashing with 3:12 left on the clock. The Heat pressured and Kramer thwarted a flurry of shots in front, as the Nitehawks hung on and came away with the 5-4 victory.
“When you have a game like that, of course there’s some worry because there’s no room for error,” said Jones. “When you give up those power play opportunities that they had … there’s an opportunity for those guys to get a chance; but our guys dug in, that’s what they’ve done all year long. They’re a special group and they found a way to win a tough game. It’s pretty unreal, I’m pretty proud of them.”
B.V. outshot Chase 42-21, and Ross, with two goals, earning player-of-the-game for the Nitehawks, and Moore for the Heat with a goal and two assists. The Hawks were 3-for-6 on the power play, while the Heat went 1-for-4. Swanson, Hartman, and Kent all had two-point nights for the home team.
The game was a deflating loss for the Chase Heat, but looking at their dramatic comeback series win over the Osoyoos Coyotes, the Heat realize the series is far from over.
“Like most coaches do, you go back to the drawing board, you take a look at the game films, we get a good nights rest, we take this one and throw it away,” said Chase head coach Brad Fox. “We design a new plan for tomorrow, and we come back and see if we can’t be stronger in all three zones with and without the puck.
“You have to get passed it (the losses), you got to move on,” added Fox. “You have to have a short memory, that’s the key in the playoffs.”
The Nitehawks travel to Chase for Game 3 on Thursday, and, if necessary, Game 4 on Friday. In the event of two Chase wins, Game 5 returns to the Hawks Nest on Sunday with the puck drop at 7 p.m.
The winner of the KIJHL final advances to the Jr. B provincial championship, Cyclone Taylor Cup, in Creston Apr. 6-9.