The Beaver Valley Nitehawks wrap up their 2015-16 campaign this weekend and can claim another Murdoch division title with one win in a pair of home games against the Fernie Ghostriders tonight and Murdoch division rival Castlegar Rebels on Saturday.
The 33-11-3-3 Hawks can clinch the title with a win over the 27-19-0-4 Ghostriders, who sit in fourth place in the Eddie Mountain division, or a Castlegar loss to the Grand Forks Border Bruins tonight. And while the Hawks could ease into the postseason by resting a few key components, coach and GM Terry Jones says his team is not about to take a break.
“I think we’re going to win Friday night and we’re going to win Saturday night, and that’s all there is to it. We’re going to put our best foot forward, get some momentum going into playoffs and feel good about ourselves.”
The Hawks lost a tough 5-1 game to the Osoyoos Coyotes last Friday but bounced back with two big wins over Princeton and Summerland to close out the three game road trip. While Jones liked the character response, he says another division banner is not going to make-or-break the Hawks’ playoff run.
“We could finish first overall in the league and if we’re not playing well, then really what does it matter? Home ice is one game. It’s just about the quality of how we’re playing and what our team feeling is and I think you have to rely on everything you’ve built over the course of the year.”
Tonight’s game against Fernie won’t be a gimme. The Ghostriders are tied with Columbia Valley in points but the Rockies have more wins (29) making them the third seed in the Eddie Mountain division.
Fernie will want to avoid playing the league’s top team in the Kimberley Dynamiters in the first playoff round, and will undoubtedly throw everything they have at the Hawks on Friday, as they face the Dynamiters on Saturday.
As a grim reminder, it was the Dynamiters who came second in the Mountain division behind Fernie last season, but went into the playoff with a 10-game winning streak. They ousted Creston and Fernie, beat the Hawks in five, and went on to capture the KIJHL championship in six games over Kamloops.
The Rebels, meanwhile, are coming off a 6-5 overtime loss to Grand Forks on Tuesday, their second loss this month to the Border Bruins. The Rebels play the Bruins again tonight, and need wins in their final three games to tie B.V. and take the division title due to more wins.
The Bruins wrapped up the third seed in the division, their first playoff berth in 20 years, while Nelson is the fourth seed. Jones has no preference which team the Hawks play, the only difference is the closer proximity of Nelson to GF.
“Either series is going to be ridiculously hard, and presents its own challenges … anybody we play in our division is going to be good, and we know it, and I think everybody knows it. There’s no secrets, no surprises, its all about who is going to go out and perform and execute, and play their best.”
The Hawks lost their leading scorer, Braden Fuller, earlier this month, when he suffered a severe concussion. However, the team was fortunate to sign Kiellan Olson of Calgary prior to the Feb. 10 deadline.
“He’s a totally different player from Braden but, like Braden, he does create offence by his ability to make plays and find open ice and create space for his linemates. So we’re excited about what Kiellan brings to our team and we’re just hopeful that Braden continues to make a good recovery.”
With two wins to close out the season, the Hawks can surpass their 75 point total from last year, and add yet another banner to the already crowded rafters. The focus now is on how well prepared the Hawks are for the real season.
“I think for us as coaches, that’s what we’ve tried to do in terms of building habits, hopefully the grit and resilience of our group and how close we are as a team we’ll be able to handle any adversity that will come our way.”
The puck drop for both weekend games is at 7:30 p.m. at the Hawks Nest. The playoffs are scheduled to commence on Tuesday on home ice regardless of the weekend results.