Special teams were the difference on the weekend, as the Beaver Valley Nitehawks skated to a 5-1 victory over the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Saturday at the Hawks Nest, following a physical 3-2 overtime win against the Grand Forks Border Bruins Friday.
Devin Ghiradosi netted the winning goal late in the second period to break a 1-1 tie and lift the Hawks into a tie for first place with Creston in the KIJHL’s Kootenay Conference. Ghiradosi jumped on a McKoy Hauk rebound and wired it high stick side on Thunder Cat goalie Patrick Osterman to put the Hawks up 2-1 with 2:55 to play in the middle frame.
“We knew we had a huge weekend, let alone a huge night tonight,” said Nitehawks assistant coach Jeremy Cominotto. “They (Creston) have a good team, you look at their squad and they have a lot of older players, built for a Cyclone Taylor run, so we knew what we had to do and stuck to our game plan.”
The Nitehawks scored on 31-per cent of their extra-man advantages, going 5-for-16 combined against Creston and Grand Forks on the weekend, with a perfect penalty kill, that wiped out 13 shorthanded efforts.
“Our penalty kill started off slow this season, but we knew we were doing the right things and had the right people involved, it was just a matter of time before we started getting some good bounces,” said Cominotto. “There are a few things we had to tune up a little bit … but it’s a big part of our game and we take pride in it; and when you have (Tallon) Kramer back there it’s like having five-on-five.”
Nitehawks forward Damon Kramer opened the scoring, finishing a quick backdoor pass from Bradley Ross at 12:19 for the only goal of the first period, as Trail outshot Creston 13-8.
The Thunder Cats answered back in the second when Liam Plunkett scored a shorthanded goal, breaking in on a 2-on-1 and batting the deflected pass out of the air and past Hawk goalie Tallon Kramer 6:41 into the period.
The Cats pressed hard in the second enjoying back-to-back two-man advantages in the second half of the middle stanza. However, an impenetrable Hawks PK and a handful of great stops by Kramer preserved the tie, until Ghiradosi put the Hawks up for good, as the Cats outshot B.V. 20-9 in the period.
“We took a few too many penalties in the second period, and it took away our momentum, but we got it back in the third period.”
The Nitehawks struck fast and often in the third with Tyler Ghiradosi scoring on a rebound off a Nolan Percival shot to make it 3-1 seven seconds into the final frame.
Mitch Foyle finished a pretty passing play from Dylan Heppler and Percival, as Foyle took a slick one-time tap pass from Percival in the high slot, waited and fired a snap shot top corner with 3:04 to play. Heppler then netted his 13th goal of the season on another power play with just under a minute remaining on the clock.
Foyle has been on fire since joining the Nitehawks at the end of November. The Fruitvale native has three goals and eight points in just five games and also brings more physicality to his game, a byproduct of playing in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League last season.
“It feels good to be back, it feels really good,” said Foyle. “I know it took some time to get back to the team, but it’s awesome to be back.”
Foyle last played with the Nitehawks in 2014-15, when he led the team in scoring with 33 goals and 59 points, and earned team MVP, and while he says it’s hard to compare the two teams, he likes what he sees in this year’s version of the Nitehawks especially after the big win over Creston.
“I think when we play our game, we’re unbeatable,” said Foyle. “I think we’re going to have a great run this year.”
B.V. went 2-for-9 on the PP, while killing all eight short-handed situations. Kramer stopped 36 shots for his 15th win of the season, while Osterman blocked 32 shots for the T-Cats.
On Friday night, B.V. tallied all their goals on the power play as Trail native Blake Sidoni scored twice including the overtime winner at 1:46 of the first OT period to give B.V. a 3-2 victory over the Grand Forks Border Bruins.
“We had a good week of practice, and we were prepared for the weekend,” said Cominotto. “We didn’t look past Grand Forks because we’ve always had a tough time against Grand Forks, especially in Grand Forks.”
B.V.’s Heppler opened the scoring on a power play with 1:46 to play in the first period, but the Bruins replied when Chad Grambo beat Kramer with just one second left in the middle stanza to tie it 1-1 heading into the third.
Sidoni scored on another Hawks power-play opportunity at 17:43 to go up 2-1 but Noah Lemoine tied it at 10:30 on a great individual effort to force extra time.
B.V. held a 45-33 edge in shots, with the Hawks going 3-for-7 on the power play while Grand Forks was 0-for-5. Sidoni earned Player of the Game honours for B.V., while goalie Anthony Galliart earned it for the Border Bruins.
The wins were a good response to a forgettable 5-4 loss to the Spokane Braves the previous week that ended the Nitehawks 15-game win streak.
“It (losing to the Braves) was a bit of an eye opener,” said Cominotto. “Especially for the younger guys, it got rid of that ‘we’re unbeatable’ mentality. We needed to get back to some basics and get our work-ethic back, and I think we did that this weekend.”
The Nitehawks next home game goes on Friday when they host the Castlegar Rebels at the Hawks Nest at 7:30 p.m.