Beaver Valley Nitehawks, Castlegar Rebels clash

Murdoch Division final starts Tuesday in Fruitvale.

The much-anticipated match up between the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and the Castlegar Rebels drops the puck Tuesday night at the Beaver Valley Arena in Fruitvale.

Both teams closed out their opponents in the fifth game of the first round of the KIJHL playoffs Thursday. The Rebels with a 4-2 victory over the Nelson Leafs and the Nitehawks finished off the Spokane Braves 7-2, setting the stage between the league’s top two teams vying for the Murdoch division title.

Both coaches are fully aware of the other team’s strengths and it may come down to which team is most successful in neutralizing their opponents threats.

“We realize our defensive game has to be at its best,” said Rebels coach Steve Junker. “They (Beaver Valley) didn’t finish tops in the league by accident. They’re a solid team throughout but paying close attention to their forwards and their forward speed is something we’ll have to key on for sure.”

The Rebels won the regular season series taking five of eight games from the Hawks, and three of those wins in overtime.

Nitehawks coach Terry Jones won’t be taking them lightly.

“It’s the top two teams in the KIJHL playing each other,” said Jones.  “We have got to go out and play and play hard, we know they’re a very good hockey team and we’re going to have to be at our best to beat them.”

The rivalry has grown to a fever pitch over the years, with Castlegar winning last year’s division final 4-1, only to lose the KIJHL title to Osoyoos Coyotes.

“It’s an exciting one that definitely everybody in this area is looking forward to seeing,” said Junker.

“We feel very fortunate to have gotten by Nelson, but it was a good one last year, all our games have been exciting and intense and I don’t expect the series to be any less.”

The Nitehawks will have to shut down key players like Scott Morisseau who played for the Nitehawks before going to Fernie last year, where he won the scoring title, and Castlegar this season.

“Their 20-year old players are all exceptional players . . . we know what Scotty can do he’s a great player, he’s a competitor and a great goal scorer. We got to control how he gets his hands on the puck and be physical with him,” said Jones.

Castlegar puck stopper Connor Beauchamp was awarded the best goalie honour for the Neil Murdoch Division and will face a potent offence led by the line of Chris Derochie, Craig Martin and Ryan Edwards.

The line collected 27 points in the five-game series against Spokane and should be a force in the series.

Both teams are healthy and the survivor of this year’s match up should be favourites to take the league title.

“I don’t know, that will remain to be seen, but on paper it’s certainly there and when you look at our records against everybody else, most of the losses each team had, came at the hands of the other team,” added Jones. “We’ve got to be ready – it all comes down to this series, as far as I’m concerned and I think that’s what they’re going to be thinking too.”

Beaver Valley won the regular season league title with 87 points, the Rebels tied with Revelstoke for second most in the league with 78.

“It’ll be a lot of fun not only to be a part of it, but as a fan watching, it’s going to be an exciting one,” added Junker.

The match up starts Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Beaver Valley Arena. Game 2 goes Wednesday.

KIJHL notes: Fernie Ghostriders plays Kimberley Dynamiters in the Eddy Mountain series, while Kamloops Storm awaits the winner of Sicamous and Revelstoke and Kelowna plays the winner of the Penticton and Princeton series.