Beaver Valley Nitehawks forward Jared Stocks scored in double overtime to lift the Hawks to a thrilling 5-4 victory over the Grand Forks Border Bruins in Game 1 of the Neil Murdoch Division semifinal.
Hawks captain Morgan Peace and forward Kevin Duguid worked the puck to the front of the Bruins net, and Stocks jumped on the loose puck and beat Grand Forks goalie Ross King at 15:43 of the second OT for the win.
“I believe Morgan Peace fanned on the shot, but Kevin got it towards the net, and then I just brought it from my backhand to my forehand and slid it in,” said Stocks. “It felt nice. The energy was really exciting, the fans were great, and both teams came to play tonight.”
The victory gives B.V. a 1-0 edge in the best-of-seven series, in what promises to be a physical and entertaining tilt between the second and third division seeds.
“I thought we got off to a great start,” said Nitehawks GM Jamie Cominotto. “We let our foot off the gas pedal a little bit in the second, but it’s always nice to get a win. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you’re not playing for points anymore, a win’s a win from now on, and we’ll take them anyway we can get them.”
The Nitehawks jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead on goals from Bradley Ross, Simon Nemethy, and Michael Hagen, but the Border Bruins stormed back in the last five minutes of the middle frame. Josh Garlough-Bell scored twice and former Nitehawk defenceman Evan Gorman tallied once as the Bruins scored three goals in three minutes to tie the game at 3-3 heading into the third.
Ross netted his second of the game, one-timing a saucer pass from Hagen on a 2-on-1 to put the Hawks up 4-3 less than two minutes into the third period.
But the Border Bruins would not go away, and Zane Avery intercepted a pass from the B.V. defenceman in the Hawks’ zone, and drilled a shot top shelf on B.V. goalie Noah Decottignies to tie the game at 4-4 with 6:10 to play.
The Nitehawks went on the power play with two minutes left in regulation but couldn’t capitalize. They dominated the first 10-minute overtime, and enjoyed another power-play opportunity, but King proved the difference, shutting the door despite several good looks from the Hawks top snipers.
“We’ve always been that type of team with the puck on our stick and the game on the line, and we always seem to find a crossbar or the goalie comes up with a big save,” said Cominotto. “But as long as we’re getting chances and opportunities to end the game, I’m satisfied.”
The Bruins charged back in the second OT period and had the best chance early, with Avery bursting in on a breakaway only to be stymied by Decottignies not once, but twice.
The Nitehawks countered and came back the other way, and finally found an answer for the Grand Forks goalie, as the rookie Stocks netted the OT winner.
“It was a big save by Noah, he made two big saves on Avery, and Kody Stewart made a great play on the wall to keep the puck alive, then Stocksy just puts it away.”
Beaver Valley outshot Grand Forks 42-28 with B.V. going 0-for-4 on the power play and Grand Forks 1-for-2. Stocks earned the Home Star and King the Away Star for the Bruins.
In other Neil Murdoch Division action, Nelson took a 2-0 series lead with a 2-1 victory over the Spokane Braves in Game 2 Wednesday, following a 3-2 win in overtime in Game 1 on Tuesday.
The series resumes in Grand Forks on Saturday at the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena at 7 p.m.