Two uneven performances earned the Beaver Valley Nitehawks a split in KIJHL action on the weekend.
It was a different Hawks team that skated to an impressive 4-0 shut-out victory over the Grand Forks Border Bruins on Saturday, than the one that floundered in a 6-4 setback to the Fernie Ghostriders on Friday.
“We didn’t play good at all last (Friday) night,” said Nitehawks assistant coach Bill Birks. “I think Aiden Browell had a good game last night – pretty tough to find someone else that played hard like that for a full 60. But tonight we had a complete buy-in, a full commitment from everyone on the team.”
Nitehawks forwards Dylan Heppler and Bradley Ross each scored twice as B.V. locked down the Border Bruins offence holding Grand Forks to just 18 shots on goal, and earning goalie Owen Sikkes his second shutout in six starts.
“Right down the line up, 1-20, we had an outstanding effort tonight,” said Birks. “But we have to get that effort every single night.”
Heppler scored the winning goal less than two minutes into the match, deflecting a point shot from Kevan McBean past Bruins goalie Ross King.
King kept the game close through two periods, but the Hawks player of the game, finally broke through with a power play goal midway through the middle frame. Heppler took a feed from Jaxen Gemmel at the top of the circle and wired a slap shot over the glove of the Bruins goalie for a 2-0 B.V. lead, as the Hawks outshot the Bruins 27-17 through two.
The Hawks amped up the pressure in the third, and Ross notched his second of the season deflecting a shot from Sam Swanson for a 3-0 lead two minutes into the third. Then right off the centre-ice puck drop, Ross grabbed the puck, jumped into the Bruins zone and fired a shot top corner for a 4-0 lead just four seconds later.
“It’s always good to contribute,” said Ross. “But the win is the most important thing. I wasn’t really thinking, I just got the puck, looked and shot it.”
The Nitehawks defensive play was all but impenetrable as B.V. held the Border Bruins to just one shot in the final stanza outshooting them 34-18 and going 2-for-4 on the power play and a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
“We all just came to play,” said Ross. “We knew we didn’t want to lose this one. We had the same start last year and were 2-3-1 and in the same spot, but we knew we could turn it around, and we know we’re a better team than we were last night.”
Despite Saturday’s strong performance, inconsistent play has plagued B.V. in the early going having won four of eight games this season. While the Nitehawks are still looking to shore up their defence and move captain Swanson back up front, the Friday loss to Fernie was a disappointing performance following a 6-0 victory over the Ghostriders at home last month.
“We’re trying not to make excuses for stuff, but it’s hard, there’s no doubt about it when you have arguably your best forward playing D, and he’s probably one of your most solid d-men,” said Birks.
In Friday’s game, the Nitehawks Darian Fuller scored twice and was named the Hawks player of the game, while Aiden Browell and McBean tallied the other Hawk markers in the 6-4 loss.
“Every team wants to beat Beaver Valley, especially when you win it,” said Birks. “Even if they beat you once all year and don’t make the playoffs they have a great season because they beat the champs. It’s hard to win, and you have to lose a couple to start winning again just to get that sour taste in your mouth.”
The Nitehawks outsthot the Ghostriders 44-31 in the game and went 1-for-4 on the power play, while Fernie was 1-for-6. The 4-3-0-1 Nitehawks open October in Nelson on Friday, and host the Golden Rockets at 7:30 p.m. at the Hawks Nest on Saturday.