The Christmas break and it’s festive indulgences didn’t slow down the Beaver Valley Nitehawks as the Neil Murdoch Division leading Hawks returned from a 10-day sabbatical on Wednesday and dominated the Castlegar Rebels in a 6-2 victory at the Hawks Nest.
Sporting the new Nitehawks orange jerseys, Sam Swanson scored twice and Bradley Ross picked up four assists in a physical match that saw the Nitehawks capitalize on 3-of-7 power play opportunities, including Swanson’s game winner with 6:55 to play in the second period.
“It’s always hard coming off a Christmas break, you’re a little tired, but I think we came together and we had a good skate last night, and I think we had a good game tonight,” said Swanson, the Beaver Valley captain. “Everybody was going tonight, everybody was feeling good, and it was a nice boost with these new uniforms for sure.”
After the Rebels Justin Podgorenko was sent off for a slash on McKoy Hauk, the Hawks power play went to work. Point man Hauk sent the puck down low to Ross who pivoted and fed Swanson in the right corner behind the goal line. Swanson’s quick centering dish to Kyle Hope in front bounced off Rebels’ goalie Curt Doyle’s skate and into the net for a 3-1 Hawks’ lead.
“I was trying to find Hopey in front of the net, but a lucky bounce and it crossed the goal line so I’ll take it,” said Swanson.
The victory vaults the 23-4-1-2 Nitehawks into first place in the KIJHL with 49 points, one point ahead of the Kimberley Dynamiters, and clinches a playoff spot for the Nitehawks.
Swanson opened the scoring on the power play off a setup by Hauk and Hope at 16:28 of the first period. The Rebels replied on their own power play when Brandon Costa stepped out from the side of the net and lifted a backhand over the blocker of Hawks goalie Tallon Kramer.
The Nitehawks took the lead for good when Mitch Foyle jumped on a Nolan Percival rebound and lifted it over Doyle with five minutes to play in the opening frame as the Hawks outshot the Rebels 15-5 in the period.
The middle stanza saw much the same script unfold with the Nitehawks pressing relentlessly and outshooting the Rebels 16-6 but only managing the one power-play goal from Swanson. Doyle came up big on a number of occasions, but a Foyle backhand also rang off the crossbar, and Ross had the Rebels’ goalie down and out and a wide open net but his shot rattled off the far bar to keep the score close at 3-1.
“We know what we’re capable both offensively and defensively and we’re alright in tight games, but we prefer not to play tight games,” said Swanson of the close match despite outshooting the Rebels 31-11 through two.
The Nitehawks broke through in the third, when Hauk’s point shot breezed by a screened Doyle to make it 4-1 three minutes in. The Rebels got one back on a misplay in front of Kramer at 12:30, however, nine seconds later Percival corralled a bouncing puck in front of the Rebels goal and fed Dylan Heppler for the tap in and his team leading 14th goal. The Hawks’ Aiden Browell notched his ninth of the season on a scramble in front banging in a loose puck with the Rebel goalie down and out for the 6-2 final.
Ross tallied his fourth assist on the play, while Hauk had a three-point night and Hope and Percival each pitched in with two helpers. The Hawks outshot the Braves 42-23, with the Rebels going 1-for-6 on the power play. Ross was named Player of the Game for the Nitehawks and Daniel Petten for the Rebels.
B.V. hits the road this weekend with divisional matches in Castlegar Friday and in Nelson on New Years Eve.