B.V. Nitehawks close gap on division leading Leafs

Sports ‘n Things by Dave Thompson

Welcome to 2019.

While the Smoke Eaters alternately stride and stumble towards a probable playoff position (tonight’s game is virtually a must-win in that regard) there is an unforeseen drama unfolding in the local junior B league.

The Nitehawks have had their struggles, and once trailed arch-rival Nelson by double digits in the KIJHL’s Murdoch Division standings – but now look at them go.

Wednesday’s win over the Castlegar Rebels moved Beaver Valley within five points of the Nelson Leafs, with 16 games remaining on their regular season schedule. Three of those are what once seemed almost meaningless contests, in standings terms, against Nelson, beginning tonight in the Queen City.

Almost all of a sudden, those games can have massive standings implications, which lead to home ice advantages in the playoff rounds. A win tonight by the Nitehawks could mean, injuries and expectations being equal, that the remaining two games between Beaver Valley and Nelson, both scheduled for the Hawks’ Nest, could be pivotal contests in the context of playoff scheduling.

Long way to go yet, but, Beaver Valley fans could have a down-to-nearly-the-wire (the last Nitehawks/Leafs match goes Feb. 9) season finish to savour.

• The Smokies, meanwhile, need to establish, tonight, that Cominco Arena belongs to their game.

On paper it is an easy start to the mission – Surrey is the league’s bottom team, sits last in the standings by a ways, is second worst in goals for and by far the worst in goals allowed.

The game is not played on paper, however. Surrey took Trail to a shootout in their previous meeting and has wins over such top dogs as Victoria and Prince George, along with two against Vernon.

Trail needs to pick up points on the road, too. After tonight the Smokies play five of their next seven away from home.

But, home dominance will be crucial in the standings, because Trail has six straight games to begin February, and seven of their last nine for this regular season, on Cominco Arena ice in February.

It all re-starts tonight. Hope to see you at the rink.