The Beaver Valley Nitehawks grabbed a share of first place in the KIJHL’s Neil Murdoch division with a close 2-1 win over the Spokane Braves on Tuesday night at the Beaver Valley Arena.
Nitehawks defenceman Reid Anderson notched a goal and an assist and Hawks puck-stopper Carson Schamerhorn stopped 35 shots on the night including 17 in the third period to withstand a concerted Braves attack and give the Nitehawks its sixth win in a row and a tie for first place with the Nelson Leafs with 43 points.
“They (Spokane) are a hard-working team and hard to play against and you know when you play them it’s going to be a tough night.” said Nitehawks coach Terry Jones. “They’re playing well right now, it wasn’t an easy victory that’s for sure.”
Beaver Valley leading scorer Mitch Foyle netted the winning goal, scoring his 22nd of the season at 15:03 of the second period to give the Hawks their 19th victory. Defenceman Walker Sidoni and Reid Anderson setup Foyle who wired it by Spokane goalie Trevor Dilauro to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
Anderson opened the scoring on a power play goal midway through the first period, when McCoy Hauk threaded a pass through traffic to Anderson who sent a slap shot from the right dot, beating Dilauro glove side. The Calgary native has emerged as one of the Hawks top defenders, scoring his third goal and collecting his 12th point this year.
“Reid Anderson is quietly becoming like an all-star player in our league,” said Jones. “He didn’t play the first five games of our season and we didn’t win any of them. Since he’s been in the lineup our record is pretty solid.”
The Nitehawks outshot the Braves 33-18 through two periods but could only solve the Braves goalie twice as Dilauro foiled the Hawks attack time and again.
Spokane would finally solve Schamerhorn with just over two minutes to play in the middle frame. The Braves threw everything they had at the Hawks net in the third including a late power-play opportunity with 3:23 remaining, but Schamerhorn thwarted the attack every time.
Spokane pulled their goalie with 30 seconds remaining and had a 6-on-4 opportunity after the Hawks defenceman was sent off for delay of game with 15 seconds to go, but the Braves could not find the equalizer.
“We got flat on our heals and they really started to take it to us, and we just couldn’t seem to get any momentum going offensively . . . it was a game where we certainly had enough good moments to win the game, but it was hard fought and at the end we certainly had to battle to win it.”
Dilauro stopped 43 shots in net for a Braves team that had also piled up a five-game winning streak before B.V. ended it Tuesday. Goaltenders Dilauro and Schamerhorn were named players of the game.
“I thought both of them played really well,” said Jones. “It was probably Schamer’s best game of the year and to be honest I thought he definitely was the star, and in the third period when we needed him he was outstanding.”
The December resurgence is eerily reminiscent of last year’s Hawks team that trailed Nelson by as much as 10 points in November, but took 17 of 18 possible points before the Christmas break to finish at 23-6-1-2 and trail the Leafs by just one point. This year’s team at 19-8-1-4, and with one game to play on Friday before a 10-day Christmas break, is not far off last year’s Keystone-Cup -championship-team pace, but that’s where the similarities stop, says Jones.
“I think the two teams are very different. You look at our team, we just don’t score at the same clip as we did last year. Defensively, we have to be so much better and pay more attention to detail.”
The addition of Devin Nemes and Alan Pruss has injected more energy into the Hawks attack, while the return of Walker Sidoni has significantly bolstered their blue line. Continued great play by goaltenders Schamerhorn and Drake Poirier could put the Hawks in sole possession of top spot with two games against the Leafs remaining before the New Year.
Hawks Notes: The Nitehawks will hold their annual alumni game at the B.V. Arena on Saturday between 4 and 8 p.m. With over 30 years of potential players returning, the Hawks will either run a mini-tournament or a single game depending on participants, with a small celebration to follow.