The Beaver Valley Nitehawks cleared the first hurdle in their quest for a KIJHL title.
The Nitehawks completed a four-game sweep of the Grand Forks Border Bruins on Sunday night with a 6-2 victory at the Jack Goddard Memorial Arena in Grand Forks.
“We thought it was going to be a long, hard series for sure,” said Nitehawks coach Terry Jones. “We were really concerned with our injuries. Not having (Jake) Yuris, (Angus) Amadio, (Morgan) Peace, and (Ryan) Crisalli we were in a tough spot here. And especially the way Grand Forks has played us coming in … we were concerned, but I tell you, the guys rose up.”
The Nitehawks fell behind 2-0 early, but scored six unanswered goals including the eventual game winner by Paul Leroux at 18:18 of the second period to clinch the Neil Murdoch Division semifinal. Leroux finished a pretty three-way passing play with Michael Hagen and Nolan Corrado to give B.V. a 3-2 lead.
The Nitehawks opened the best-of-seven series with a dramatic 5-4 double-OT win, then rolled over the Bruins 10-4 in Game 2, and earned a 2-0 shut-out in Game 3 to take a strangle-hold on the series. Despite the Hawks injuries, depth throughout their line up and a strong affiliate presence made the difference.
“Leroux and Hagen were outstanding, but (Bradley) Ross, (Simon) Nemethy, and Corrado were just men out there, and then (Jared) Stocks, (Kevin) Duguid, and Peace were super solid – Stocks big goals, Duguid great penalty kill, and Peace was real physical. And our APs did a fantastic job.”
Injuries also played a factor in the Border Bruins line up with top players Nathan Cohen-Wallis, Jake Huculak, and August Demaere out of action at various times.
“Once they lost some of those guys, it really hurt their team,” said Jones. “We were able to be resilient with our losses to our line up, but they weren’t.”
The Bruins came out determined in Game 4 and opened the scoring with Alex Skinner and Yoan Rodrigue tallying a shorthanded and a power-play goal in the opening 10 minutes to put the home team up 2-0.
“It wasn’t a great start for us, and we had some guys make some poor decisions,” said Jones. “So we got behind the eight-ball, and then it was funny, we got hemmed in our end, then we went down and we scored and the game changed as soon as we scored. Sometimes that’s what you need, a little good fortune.”
B.V. chipped away with Marty Ingram and Michael Hagen scoring before the period was out to tie it heading to two.
Leroux made it 3-2, and the Game-1 overtime hero, Stocks, shovelled in his own rebound for a 4-2 lead. Affiliate player Dayton Nelson, fresh off a game that morning with the Major Midget Kootenay Ice, scored on an unassisted effort to make it 5-2 heading into the third period.
Hawks’ forward Nemethy put the Bruins’ season on ice with an empty netter with 1:53 left in regulation.
Noah Decottignies stopped 28 shots for the win, while Ross King made 32 saves in the Bruins net. B.V. was 1-for-7 on the power play and Grand Forks 1-for-8.
The Nitehawks now enjoy a five-day break before facing either the Nelson Leafs or Spokane Braves, whose series was tied at two as of Monday.
“It’s huge,” said Jones. “You don’t ever like to say we need to sleep in order to give ourself a chance to advance. But we also know that when you finish in four or five, you have a way better chance of being fresher and ready for the next round. That’s normal, ice bags are everywhere for every team, so now it definitely helps, and it helps get us closer to having our guys back in our line up.”
Beaver Valley will face the winner of the Nelson Leafs-Spokane Braves match up, which is tied at two-games apiece. The series resumed Monday night in Nelson but the score was unavailable at press time. Game 6 goes in Spokane on Tuesday, with Game 7, if necessary, scheduled for Wednesday in Nelson.