The Beaver Valley Nitehawks wound up their three-games-in-three-days weekend in dramatic fashion.
The Hawks earned their sixth point of the weekend thanks to a last-minute goal by Morgan Peace in a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Nelson Leafs on Sunday at the B.V. Arena.
The win was the Nitehawks sixth straight, after defeating a slightly different Leafs team on Friday in Nelson, 4-1, then rolling to a 7-2 drubbing of the Spokane Braves on Saturday at the Hawks nest.
“It was a great win, a great weekend,” said Hawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “The last two or three weeks we’ve really started to play better hockey. We had some ill health, but I think all-around everyone is really starting to get that feeling, that we know what we’re doing as a team, and developed some great habits. And the biggest thing is when we get into situations like today, we’ve been team-resilient, and we’ve been able to get the big shot block, the big goal, whatever it takes to win.”
Peace, a Trail native, scored twice including the winning goal with just 58 seconds remaining on the clock. With time winding down, the trio of Peace, Tommy McConnachie, and Bradley Ross swarmed the Leafs zone and looked to have tied it after a rebound came right out to the Nitehawks d-man. Kevan McBean fired it at the open net, but Leafs goalie Josh Williams dove across and robbed the B.V. defender. Yet, the play was far from over. The puck came out and a frenzied scramble saw Peace emerge with the puck and lift it into the back of the net for a 4-3 lead with just under a minute to play.
“We’ve been working on not getting down on the bench, so as soon as they tied it, we knew we were going to come back,” said Peace. “On the goal, it was just a really good shift for me, Tommy, and Brad, and we were just working it to our defenceman up top, and getting lots of shots. There was a scrum out front, it popped out to me, and I just put her in.”
Sunday’s game was the make up tilt for the Dec. 29 contest that was called due to a power outage. With each team’s line up identical to game day three weeks ago, the match resumed Sunday with the Leafs leading 1-0 and five minutes to play in the first.
“Today was a really unusual day, playing three-quarters of a game, and having healthy guys that can’t play,” said Jones. “Connor (Seib), (Karsten) Jang, and (Aiden) Jenner – they’re all ready to go, and not able to contribute. We just got a great effort from Erik Bocale on defence and (affiliate player) Quaid Anderson, just a solid team effort and I was really proud of the guys.”
With Sawyer Hunt in the box for hooking, B.V.’s power play went to work, and Hawks’ captain Sam Swanson chipped in a rebound off a Dylan Heppler shot to tie the game at one, 27 seconds into the middle frame.
The Leafs reclaimed the lead after Mitch Lavoie won the the face off in the Hawks zone, getting it back to Nelson AP Keenan Crossman who fired it through a screen on Hawks goalie Liam Coulter at 15:21.
Just 27 seconds later, Beaver Valley battled back and tied it when Nolan Percival carried the puck down the right wing and into the Leafs zone before wiring a sharp-angle shot over the shoulder of Williams.
B.V. then seized its first lead of the game off a 2-on-1 rush, when Ross feathered a perfect feed over the Nelson defenceman’s stick right to Peace, who wired it past Williams to make it 3-2 at 4:45 of the second period.
Peace has two goals and nine points in his last six games, after an injury sidelined the 18 year old on Nov. 5 for almost two months. His return Dec. 28 proved another shot in the arm for a Nitehawks squad that went without key components for most of November and December.
“I feel way better now,” said Peace. “I’m all healed up and I’m just excited to be back playing. Me, Brad and Tommy have been going these last couple games. It’s really nice to get these couple points, and, like tonight, it’s just a good feeling.”
The teams exchanged chances in a thrilling end-to-end flow in the third. Then with 6:12 to play, the Leafs Ryan Piva worked the puck down low and fired on net. Coulter made a quick toe save, however, the rebound went right to Ryan Cooper and he fired it into the open side to even the score at 3-3.
After Peace tallied the winner, the Leafs charged back and had two great scoring opportunities but Coulter, an 18-year-old Calgary native, came up big for the Hawks.
The Leafs outshot B.V. 36-30, with the Nitehawks going 2-for-4 on the power play and a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
On Saturday night, two goals from Heppler, and tallies from Percival and Swanson gave the Nitehawks a 4-0 second period lead. Trenton Sherman and Paxton Malone cut the lead in half before the second period was out, but third period goals from Angus Amadio, Christian Macasso, and Ross put the game on ice in the 7-2 Hawks win over the Braves.
The Nitehawks outshot the Braves 35-23 and went 2-for-5 on the power play. Spokane was 0-for-5. Affiliate player, Jake Kemp, earned his first win in net as a Nitehawk.
On Friday, the Nitehawks played the Leafs in Nelson with their respective lineups fully intact.
Hunt put the Leafs up 1-0 at 8:12 of the first period, but that was all the home team could muster as B.V. replied with two goals from McBean and singles from Karsten Jang and Aidan Browell for the 4-1 victory.
Nelson outshot B.V. 31-25, but the Hawks went 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Leafs were 0-for-5.
“I thought Friday night in Nelson Morgan, Tommy, and Brad really took it to them physically, they must have had 20 hits altogether,” added Jones. “But they really played a good physical game and scored some big goals for us, and tonight it was nice to see them get rewarded, just a great shift for us.”
The Leafs and Castlegar Rebels are tied for top spot in the Neil Murdoch Division with 57 points, while the Nitehawks sit eight points back, with eight games remaining in the regular season.
The Nitehawks are on the road this weekend with games in Grand Forks on Friday and Spokane on Sunday.