The Beaver Valley Nitehawks may have played their most complete game of the season on Tuesday night.
The 13-3-1-2 Nitehawks completely dominated the Spokane Braves in a fast-paced and physical 7-2 victory at the Hawks Nest to move into a tie with the Nelson Leafs for first place in the Neil Murdoch Division.
“I really loved our effort tonight,” said Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones. “I thought we didn’t have a great effort in Grand Forks (Saturday) even though we got the win, but I thought tonight we really had everybody going, had some good flow, and those shorthanded goals at the end of the first period were huge, they really set the tone.”
Spokane was coming off a dominant 6-2 victory over Nelson on Friday, which put an abrupt end to the Leafs 12-game win streak, and the Braves were looking for similar results against the Nitehawks.
But special teams proved key in the opening period as the Hawks jumped out to a 3-1 lead. Dayton Nelson opened the scoring on the power play, taking a pass down low from Luke Woodrow and beating Spokane goalie Marcello De Antunano shortside midway through the first.
Spokane went on a power play late in the period, and B.V. made them pay. Hawks forward Bradley Ross blocked a shot at his own blue line and sent Angus Amadio in all alone. The Hawks forward was stopped on his first shot, but banged the rebound between the pads of the Braves goalie for a shorthanded goal and a 2-0 lead with 1:15 to play.
Just 19 seconds later, B.V. forward Mason Hartman broke in on a 2-on-1, faked the pass and went five-hole for the game winning, shorthanded marker and his first goal as a Nitehawk.
“We’ve worked a lot on our power play, and it’s shown to be a little bit better. Our penalty kill, we gave up one tonight, but overall it’s been pretty solid, so we just got to keep working on it and keep improving those parts of the game.”
The Braves scored a power play goal of their own, when Nate Wilson blasted a puck over the shoulder of B.V. goalie Saran Virdee to make it 3-1 with 25 seconds remaining.
The Nitehawks controlled the play in the second frame, but Braves forward Jed Butler beat Virdee with a backhand to bring the Braves within one at 9:13.
B.V. pressed and after a frantic scramble in front, Amadio notched his second of the night when he gathered a rebound and lifted it past De Anunano to make it 4-2 with six minutes to play in the period, with assists to Bradley Ross and Zach Park. The goal was the Calgary native’s seventh of the season and 20th point, despite missing four games with injury.
“He (Amadio) is so deserving of getting rewarded for the goals and points, he’s such a tireless worker and does everything the right way all the time,” said Jones. “Every drill in practice he does perfectly, and it’s nice to see him rewarded . He’s one of our leaders, and we count on him every night and every shift.”
Brock Wallace thought he had his third of the season when he blasted a slapshot through traffic, but the goal was called back due to goalie interference. About a minute later, Wallace made it count, taking a pass from Marcus McEachern and firing it top shelf to make it 5-2 with 3:31 to play in the middle frame.
Beaver Valley outshot Spokane 16-8 in the period, and carried their dominant play into the third. After banking one of the post, Ross came back and fired in his 16th goal on a setup from Amadio and Quaid Anderson. Lucas Anselmo then finished the scoring when the Trail native slipped in his first of the campaign on a scramble in front with 71 seconds to go in regulation.
With the loss, the 11-10-0-2 Braves remain in third-place, five points behind B.V. and Nelson, who are tied for first in the KIJHL with 29 points.
“We know they’re going to work hard, Spokane, they always have kids that work hard. They have some skilled guys with great speed and they’re going to continue to improve and be a good team in the division.
“We just have to keep focussing on what we do, and as the game wears on, they react to us rather than we react to them.”
Beaver Valley outshot Spokane 42-21, and went 2-for-6 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
The Nitehawks enjoy this weekend off, and return to action on Nov. 22 when they play the Golden Rockets in Golden.