The Beaver Valley Nitehawks ended 2012 on a high note with a dramatic 7-5 win over Nelson New Years Eve, and look to keep the party going in 2013.
Last week the Hawks skated to a 6-3 win and 2-2 tie with Castlegar in a home-and-home series Friday and Saturday, before completing a thrilling comeback against Nelson in their Monday matinee to take five of six points from the two Neil Murdoch division leaders.
The Hawks trailed 3-0 after the first period, and 4-2 heading into the third before storming back with five goals in the final frame to move within four points of the division leading Leafs.
“We’re happy where we are right now, it was a really nice win in Nelson for sure,” said Nitehawk coach and GM Terry Jones. “Especially in their rink, as soon as something goes downhill you expect it to keep going downhill. We’ve had some big losses there so it’s nice to turn that around.”
This weekend the Hawks play a home-and-home starting in Kimberley tonight against the Dynamiters, before taking on the Revelstoke Grizzlies at home on Sunday.
The Nitehawks will also get an offensive injection Saturday as they welcome the return of Ryan Edwards, who was suspended for 30 days by the Trail Smoke Eaters for leaving the team.
With the addition of Edwards to the lineup the Nitehawks should be brimming with confidence heading into the final 15 games of the season, however, Jones is the first to recognize that Edwards’ presence alone doesn’t come with any guarantees.
“With Eddy coming back, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to win games by showing up, you still have to earn your win every night.”
The 7-5 victory over Nelson was just the second win for the Nitehawks over the Leafs this season, who have beaten B.V. four times including a 12-0 drubbing back on Nov. 1.
A month ago the Hawks sat 10 points back of the Leafs, but thanks to a 9-1-1 record in December, a surging Nitehawks team is now two points back of the Rebels and just four points behind Nelson.
The turning point for the team was a result of a number of factors, says Jones. The team is now relatively healthy and the resurgence of Dallas Calvin coupled with the return of Dan Holland has paid nothing but scoring dividends for the Hawks.
“Just getting guys healthy is part of it. All of our defensive core is healthy, and you start believing and start playing those close games and all of a sudden your team develops that confidence.”
Young players like Connor Brown-Maloski, 16, and Kurt Black, 17, have stepped up to help fill much of the offensive void, and the Nitehawks are looking more and more like contenders for another KIJHL crown.
Taylor Stafford is also quietly rounding out a good season as he notched his 30th point with three assists and a first star nod against Nelson Monday.
“It’s been really nice,” says Jones. “I think our younger guys have really started to develop and we’ve been getting really good performances out of them and our goaltending has been solid, so its all starting to come together.”
Travis Beekhuizen has proven to be a dependable backup to Zach Perehudoff; the Calgary native stopped 35 of 40 shots for the victory against the Leafs.
Three wins on the weekend could mean some definite movement up in the Neil Murdoch division for the Hawks, as Nelson and Castlegar play each other on Sunday.
However, the team will have to play like they did in the third period against Nelson rather than the first when they were outshot 18-7.
“I was disappointed in the first period,” said Jones. “It was a real lacklustre start to the game and I just didn’t like our effort as a whole group, but we really turned it around.”
Down 4-2, the Nitehawks came out flying in the third. Black scored twice and Calvin once in just over a minute span to take a 5-4 lead at the 18:37 mark to spark the comeback.
Michael Bell then notched what proved to be the winner while shorthanded with 12 minutes remaining.
Seth Schmidt brought the Leafs to within one at 10:56, but Calvin iced it with another shorthanded effort into an empty net with 10 seconds remaining.
Calvin had another strong performance with two goals and two assists to give him 42 points on the season, while Archie McKinnon also pitched in with three helpers.