The Beaver Valley Nitehawks winged their way to victory on Monday evening, defeating the Nelson Leafs 5-2 in the third game of their KIJHL first-round playoffs series after a penalty-heavy third period that saw the Fruitvale team score four times in seven minutes.
The Nitehawks now have a 2-1 lead in the series, with the fourth game scheduled for Tuesday night in Nelson.
“We played a good game until we got into penalty trouble. I don’t think the game was very well officiated. It’s a function of this level, but it changes the tide of the game,” said coach Dave McLellan, who was visibly upset with the outcome.
He pointed out that captain Aaron Dunlap took a “clear spear” to the neck early in the first period, but the referees failed to call the penalty.
“It’s been an emotional series. Behind the play there’s a lot of dirty shit and the guys are really tired of it. The officials need to do a better job.”
The first goal of the game was scored by Leafs rookie Dylan Williamson, only three minutes in. He was assisted by Austin Lindsay and Michael Crawford.
It was the last goal before the Nitehawks went on their third period streak, capitalizing on a 5-on-3 power play.
Before the final Nitehawks goal, Leafs player Brendan Smith slapped a high-right goal past Carson Schamerhorn to make the score 4-2. He was assisted by Jason Mailhoit.
There were 11 penalties in the third period, including nine for the Leafs. Players spent time in the box for high-sticking, unsportsmanlike conduct, cross-checking and slashing. McLellan said the penalties his players received were the result of built-up animosity between the teams.
“When you’re getting packed and whacked and cross-checked after the whistle, there’s not going to be a lot of friendship there.”
The aggression on-ice was gratuitous, and one violent encounter inspired the crowd to chant invective at a Nitehawks player they believed to be faking a throat injury. A referee was knocked over, sticks were routinely sent tumbling across the ice, and the boys cursed loudly and pounded at each other until the closing moments of the game.
McLellan expressed disappointment with the Leafs players.
“Nobody was outstanding tonight. We worked hard and we could’ve won, but we came up short. Part of it is we don’t have the personnel,” he said, referring to the number of players missing from the lineup.
But he’s feeling confident for Game 4.
“I always like our chances. We just came off winning triple overtime. It’s been an emotional series and now we’ll have to stay out of the penalty box. These are two top teams battling it out. They got the edge tonight, and we’re going to try to bring it tomorrow.”
(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled coach Dave McLellan’s name.)