The Beaver Valley Nitehawks took care of one challenge and now are gearing up to exact some revenge for last year’s Kootenay Conference loss.
Beaver Valley dominated the Grand Forks Border Bruins on Friday skating to a 4-0 victory to eliminate the Bruins in five games and capture the Hawks’ third consecutive Neil Murdoch division title.
“I didn’t think we had a great start to the game,” said Hawks’ coach and GM Terry Jones. “I thought we were pretty uptight in the first 10-12 minutes of the game, and then we seemed to settle down when we got the first goal and it seemed to relax us. From that point, we really started to play our game.”
With the 4-1 series triumph, B.V. now faces their toughest test of the 2016 KIJHL playoffs when the Hawks play the Eddie Murdoch division champion Kimberley Dynamiters in a best-of-seven series for the Kootenay Conference title.
“We know they’re a very good team, and a very good challenge,” said Jones. “They’re definitely the favourites, and we know we’re a good team and we look forward to the challenge of playing them. It’s going to be a great series.”
The meeting is a rematch of last year’s Kootenay Conference final, which the Dynamiters won in five games against an injury-riddled Hawks team. The Dynamiters then went on to capture the KIJHL championship in five against Kamloops.
The teams met twice this year, with Kimberley winning both games beating the Hawks 4-2 at home then taking an exciting 4-3 win in overtime at the Hawks nest on Feb. 6. Kimberley also finished this season as the KIJHL regular season champion with 86 points. Forward Eric Buckley led the team with 70 points, while Jared Marchi and Jordan Busch finished with 66 points to join Buckley in the top-10 of league scoring.
Goaltender Tyson Brower, who shone in last season’s playoff run, led all goalies in wins, 31, and fewest losses, 6, with a 1.96 goals against average, and .929 save percentage.
“I think they have a solid core of veteran players, and for us we have a lot of rookies, young players. We’re looking forward to seeing how we match up.”
In Friday’s playoff clincher against Grand Forks, affiliate player Bradley Ross netted the winner and was named Home Star in putting an end to the Bruins first playoff appearance in almost two decades. The Trail native scored with 3:35 to play in the first period converting a setup from Dylan Heppler and Blake Sidoni to give the Nitehawks a 1-0 lead. The goal was all B.V. needed as the Border Bruins managed just 11 shots on the Nitehawks net with Tallon Kramer getting the shut out, while the Hawks fired 37 at Bruins goalie Anthony Galliart.
“They didn’t get a lot going,” said Jones. “Even our penalty kill was pretty solid, we didn’t give up a lot of shots and when we did, Cosmo (Kramer) was there. He’s given us a lot of confidence back there.”
Kyle Hope, Devin Nemes, and Tyler Ghiradosi rounded out the scoring for B.V.
Looking forward, the Hawks are better off health-wise than last year, yet they have some players ailing with Nolan Percival and Michael Pruss day-to-day, and goaltender Brett Clark still undergoing concussion protocol and will not dress.
“We’re looking at being pretty healthy, and we are also buoyed by the play of our A.P.s,” said Jones. “They’ve been a great addition, so with our depth we’re pretty comfortable, and Brad Ross has done a great job as an AP player.”
The Kootenay Conference final goes in Kimberley tonight and Wednesday at 7 p.m. and will face off for Games 3 and 4 at the Beaver Valley Arena on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
“To be honest we want to win both games, but we’ll just look at that first one first,” said Jones. “We want to get Game 1 and that’s what we’re setting out to do.”
In the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference the 100-Mile House Wranglers bounced the Chase Heat from the playoffs with a 2-1 win in Game 6 Friday. The Wranglers now face the Summerland Steam after the Steam upset the Osoyoos Coyotes on the weekend with 4-3 and 6-4 victories to knock off the top-seed of the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference 4-2.