The Beaver Valley Nitehawks opened their season on a tentative note, registering just a single point in their opening two games: a 3-3 tie with Nelson Leafs on Friday, and a 4-3 loss to 100 Mile House Wranglers on Saturday.
The Nitehawks deserved better against the Wranglers, outshooting the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference team 40-31, but a combination of missed opportunities and good goaltending sank the Hawks in the end.
“No cause for concern, or even hit the panic button,” said assistant coach Kevin Limbert. “We didn’t have a consistent enough effort, we didn’t have all 20 guys going at one time, and that’s the result.”
With less than six minutes remaining in the third period, Wranglers’ forward Devan Suidy banged in a rebound off a blocked shot to give 100 Mile House its second win in as many nights. Forward Nick Headrick broke into the Nitehawks zone wheeled around the net and sent a pass to point man Michael Lynch. His slap shot caromed off the Hawks d-man right to Suidy who slid it into the open net under a helpless Drake Poirier.
The Wranglers, opened their KIJHL season with a 4-2 victory over Grand Forks on Friday, a win over B.V. Saturday, and a 4-1 loss to the Spokane Braves Sunday to find themselves on top of the Doug Birks division. The Hawks, meanwhile, battled back from a 3-1 deficit versus Nelson on Friday to salvage a point, but squandered a two-goal lead against the Wranglers.
Still, Limbert is happy with the progress of the team and is confident in the lineup, with no plans of making any moves.
“We have a pretty young team, and a lot of new faces. We haven’t had too much time in this young season to teach and to coach, yet, even in these last couple days we’ve seen good strides in buying into our system and a lot of learning has been done, so it’s a steep learning curve and the guys are handling it well . . . We have a lot of tools, we just need to go to school for a bit.”
The Hawks opened the scoring at 1:07 of the first period when Zach Bennet turned and fired a low shot glove side to put B.V. up 1-0 heading into the second. Ross Armour and Jack Vergouwen picked up assists on the play as the Hawks outshot the Wranglers 13-9 in the first period but good saves by both 100 Mile House goalie Kristian Stead and Poirier kept the game tight.
The Wranglers tied it 68 seconds into the second period, but the Nitehawks regained the lead after 100 Mile House’s Tate Page was sent off for roughing. A minute later, B.V. defenceman McCoy Hauk took a feed from D-partner Andrew Miller and blasted it by Stead to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead at 13:42.
Grand Prairie native Taylor Stafford would then make it 3-1, jumping on a Mitch Foyle rebound and beating Stead stick side at 6:36.
The Wranglers would cut the lead to 3-2 on a marker from Lynch at 4:39 of the middle frame.
The score could have been much worse at the end of the second, as the Hawks were stymied on a number of odd-man rushes, including a great save on a shot from Mitch Foyle, who made a slick move around the defenceman to go in alone on the Wrangler goalie.
Lane van de Wetering then notched the equalizer 30 seconds into the third, to set up Suidy’s game winner at 5:39.
The Nitehawks would pull Poirier for an extra attacker with one minute remaining, and the line of Foyle, Sam Swanson, and Kyle Hope generated a number of great scoring chances in the late going, yet, could not capitalize.
The veteran line has played well together in preseason action and will look to lead the Nitehawks in the upcoming campaign.
As defending Keystone and Cyclone Cup champions the Hawks won’t have any easy games, with visiting teams eager to knock off the reigning champions.
“We definitely have a target on our back, and it’s a good place to be though,” said Limbert. “We’re going to be pushed and we’re going to be challenged everytime we’re on the ice, and that’s never a bad thing.”
The Hawks will look to pick up their first win of the season against Castlegar tonight at 7 p.m. at the Hawks next.
“We’ve always had a good rivalry against Castlegar. There’s a lot of bad blood between us, which is competitive bad blood, and it was there when I was playing, which I think is fantastic. It adds to the level of the game, it adds to the competition, and it adds to the pace.
“They’re a hard working team, and they play a style of hockey where you have to be skating, you have to be working to be successful.”