The Beaver Valley Nitehawks postseason came to a crushing end on Sunday in a Game 7 loss to the Castlegar Rebels at the Castlegar Rec Complex.
The Nitehawks were on the verge of winning the series after defeating the Rebels 3-2 Thursday night in Castlegar and taking a 3-2 lead in the Neil Murdoch Division best-of-seven semifinal series.
But just as a Game 3 goaltending change to backup Liam Coulter helped the Nitehawks to three straight wins, a Rebels switch from netminder Tanner Douglas to Curt Doyle paid off on Friday in the Hawks’ Nest. Doyle made 35 stops in a thrilling 2-1 win, where both backups made plenty of game-saving stops to make the outcome uncertain until the final buzzer.
Brady Daniels scored a short-handed goal midway through the second period, and Chris Breeze netted the winner at 12:31 of the third period to put the Rebels up 2-0. The Hawks’ Nolan Percival replied with 7:28 remaining in regulation, but B.V.’s attempt to find the equalizer was thwarted time and again by Doyle, including in the final 1:15 when the Nitehawks pulled Coulter for an extra attacker.
“We came out, we were happy with our game yesterday,” Rebels head coach and general manager, Bill Rotheisler told the Castlegar News. “We were happy with Curt — Curt was a big difference, he did very well for us.”
In Game 7, Edward Lindsey’s goal on a setup from John Moeller at 15:47 of the second period proved to be the winner. Lindsey deftly deflected a Moeller shot past Coulter to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead and a berth into the Neil Murdoch Division final against the Nelson Leafs.
“Systematically we made a few adjustments and the boys came out to play. Today they were on. We know that B.V. has so many good players, but we really like our depth. We think our depth is one of our advantages.”
Chris Breese opened the scoring for Castlegar at 8:41 of the opening frame. But B.V. answered on the power play, when Dylan Kent wired a shot past Doyle to tie it just 18 seconds into the second period.
But Lindsey’s goal and another by Tanner Costa 92 seconds before the middle period was out deflated the Nitehawks, as Castlegar outshot B.V. 34-22 through two periods.
Lindsey added a power-play goal at 3:58 of the third period for the 4-1 final, as the Rebels outshot the Nitehawks 10-3 in the period and 44-25 in the match.
“The first couple of games we were the passive team and they were the aggressive ones and we kind of flipped things around,” said Rotheisler. “I would say that they were trying to, I just really think that our energy levels were a bit better.”
An injury to B.V. captain Sam Swanson also hurt the Nitehawks team. An inspirational leader on and off the ice, the 20-year-old Fruitvale native is a skilled and relentless playmaker, whose play was limited in the final games. Playing in his fifth KIJHL season as a Nitehawk, the 2018 Team MVP holds the Beaver Valley record for most games played in the regular season at 206, and another 68 playoff games under his belt, in addition to two KIJHL titles, two Cyclone Taylor championships (2014, 2017), and a Keystone Cup (2014). Swanson finishes his KIJHL career with 66 goals, 110 assists, and 176 points.
Nelson, meanwhile, defeated the upstart Grand Forks Border Bruins who fought back from a 3-0 series deficit, to win three straight games and force a Game 7 in Nelson on Sunday. It was not to be, however, as the number-1 seeded Leafs pulled out a 4-2 victory.
In the Eddie Mountain Division, the Columbia Valley Rockies shocked the Creston Valley Thunder Cats at home with a 5-4 overtime win Friday to bounce the second-seeded Cats from the playoffs in six games.
The Kimberley Dynamiters ousted the Fernie Ghostriders in five games with a 2-1 OT victory on Thursday and will play the Rockies in the Mountain Division final.
In the Okanagan Division of the Okanagan-Shuswap Conference, the Osoyoos Coyotes swept the Princeton Posse, while the Kelowna Chiefs beat the Summerland steam 3-0 in Game 7. The Coyotes and Chiefs start their division final on Tuesday in Osoyoos.
The 100-Mile House Wranglers defeated the Chase Heat in four straight, and the Revelstoke Grizzlies beat the Kamloops Storm in six games to play for the Doug Birks Division title.