A four-goal third period broke open a close game, at least on the scoreboard, as the Beaver Valley Nitehawks cruised to a 6-1 win over the Spokane Braves at the B.V. Arena on Tuesday.
Defenceman Derek Lashuk netted the short-handed winner for the Hawks when he corralled the puck, made a nice move, then fired a rainbow from his own blue line that bounced once, twice, and thrice right over the blocker of Spokane goalie Keegan McHenry into the net to make it 2-0, three minutes into the second period.
The Hawks dominated the Braves in the first period firing 19 shots at McHenry, but only a pretty passing play between Kurt Black and Michael Bell resulted in a Bell tap in that was the difference for the Hawks going into the second frame.
“I think our first period was one of our best periods of the year,” said Hawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “We really moved the puck well and generated a lot of offence.”
Following Lashuk’s fortunate bounce, Spokane cut the lead to one at the end of the second when a Dylan Tappe shot from the point eluded a screened Zach Perehudoff to make it 2-1 heading into the final frame.
However, a Walker Sidoni KO of the Braves’ Coleman McDonald in an early third-period tilt seemed to ignite the Hawks.
Bell continued his impressive play, as he drove hard to the net and shovelled home his second of the night at 13:16 to put the Hawks up 3-1.
Three minutes later the Hawks leading scorer Nick Perez netted his first of two after firing a low shot from the point looking for a tip in, but the puck drifted through a crowd of players and into the bottom corner to make it 4-1.
Not to be outdone, Connor Brown-Maloski showed off his offensive prowess, splitting the defence and beating McHenry to make it 5-1.
The talented 16-year-old Kamloops native has shown flashes of brilliance this season and is currently on a four game goal-scoring streak.
“Every game I expect myself to put points on the board to help our team win games, and if I can’t do that and other people are filling that role, I’ll try to step back and fill a checking role and do as much as I can on the ice to help our team win games,” said CBM.
Perez then put an exclamation mark on the night with a wicked blast from the point to make the final 6-1.
The 20-year-old California native leads the Hawks with 12 goals and 17 assists and sits tied for ninth overall in league scoring. The assistant captain is three points away from his entire output last season and has been an important leader on and off the ice for the Hawks.
“I got more confidence in my hands and shooting more this past summer,” said Perez. “I don’t want to be the go-to guy being a defenceman, but it does help having that kind of thing on my shoulders, just wanting to help the team out. Being my last year, I want to do all I can to win.”
The Nitehawks are coming off a pair of wins against Columbia and Spokane, teams that they should beat, however a big test awaits this weekend when they travel to the Okanagan/Shuswap for a three game swing against the Kamloops Storm, Chase Heat, and Revelstoke Grizzlies.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time, but we’re looking to build our confidence back up and if we can get the game Friday I think we can get the three wins,” said Jones.