Two goals from three different players launched the Beaver Valley Nitehawks over the Spokane Braves on Tuesday night at the Beaver Valley Arena.
Hawks forwards Dylan Heppler, Bradley Ross, and Aiden Jenner each tallied a pair in a 7-3 victory over the Braves. The win is B.V.’s 14th this season and keeps the team within striking distance of the Neil Murdoch Division leading Nelson Leafs (16-3-1-1).
“It was a funny game,” said Nitehawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “Spokane had a lot of energy tonight and it’s the first game we played them this year, so we weren’t sure what to expect. But early on they came out and took it to us pretty good.”
A sluggish Nitehawk start saw the Braves take a 1-0 lead on an Aaron Morris tally midway through the first period, but the Hawks struck back on the power play. Tommy McConnachie redirected a Kevan McBean point shot past Spokane goalie Trevor Dilauro at 6:49 to tie it.
Eighteen seconds later, another penalty to Spokane’s Greg Lind gave the Hawks the extra man and Nolan Percival took a pass from point-man Dylan Kent down low, circled behind the net and fed Dylan Heppler in the high slot. The Warner, AB. native walked in and wired it high glove side to put the Hawks up 2-1.
“I thought Owen (Sikkes) was really good early to keep us in it, and then it was nice to get the power plays goals tonight,” said Jones. “It kind of set the tone, and I thought we had a really good second period.”
Ross gave the Hawks a two-goal lead midway through the middle stanza, breaking in on a 2-on-1 with Kevan McBean whose shot was kicked out by Dilauro but bounced right to Ross who shovelled it into the top corner.
Ross’s second goal of the game and 13th of the year proved to be the winner when he followed up on a hard drive to the net by Aidan Browell and buried the rebound for a 4-1 lead with less than five minutes to play in the second.
Jenner made it 5-1 taking a deft drop pass from Hawks AP Simon Nemethy and firing a slap shot from the top of the circle off the post and in with 1:54 to play as Beaver Valley dominated the period outshooting the Braves 18-6.
Despite B.V.’s second-period onslaught, Spokane came out undeterred in the third, and Morris and Kyle Donaldson netted two quick goals to cut the lead to 5-3.
The Nitehawks regrouped following a strong penalty kill, and Jenner tallied his second on the night, corralling a Browell rebound and firing it top shelf at 11:39. Heppler then notched his 14th goal and 30th point on a setup from Christian Macasso and Gemmell with 3:58 to play for the 7-3 final.
The Hawks combo of Heppler (14-16-30) and Jaxen Gemmell (5-17-22) have been an offensive force this season and along with either Ross (13-9-22) or Nolan Percival on the wing are as formidable a line as any in the KIJHL.
“I’ve had the good luck and pleasure of playing with unreal linemates all year so they make it a lot easier for me,” said Heppler. “There are big efforts all around I mean Jenner had two, Ross had two and it was a good team effort.”
Still, the Nitehawks have endured their share of injuries and on Tuesday captain Sam Swanson, forward Damon Kramer, and d-men Evan Gorman, Connor Seib, and Karsten Jang were all out of the lineup, and Blake Sidoni away on a call-up with the Trail Smoke Eaters. Fortunately, affiliate players Nemethy, Quaid Anderson, and Adam Pipe from the Major Midget Kootenay Ice have stepped in and stepped up, doing a remarkable job for the Hawks.
“I don’t like to make excuses,” said Jones. “I mean we’re missing some great players that have been in the league for a long time, but I thought our APs came out and played great for us tonight. It was a shot in the arm from all three of them, an excellent game.”
Special teams also proved key for the Nitehawks win, shutting down the Braves power play on four chances, while the Hawks power play went 3-for-4. B.V. outshot the Braves 46-28 with Browell, Gemmell, and McBean each recording two assists. Jenner was named Home Star for the Hawks and Morris for the Braves.
The Nitehawks hit the road this weekend for their final meeting of the regular season against the 15-4-1-0 Dynamiters in Kimberley on Saturday, and will look to avenge a 7-2 loss last weekend.
“We’ve kinda been struggling lately, but we’re slowly getting back to the basics and how we usually play, so hopefully this weekend we come up with another big two points,” said Heppler. “
A bleak November, in which B.V. enjoyed just three home games, puts the Hawks on the road for the rest of the month. Following an unbeaten October, B.V. has just two wins in five games in November, yet, Jones isn’t about to blame the road or injuries for the Hawks recent slump.
“I think it’s actually good to be on the road,” said Jones. “It’s good to be together on the bus, and brings guys together a little bit more. It’s hard but it’s a good test for you too as you go through this part of the season, I think it’s good to be on the road and get tested like that. It’ll pay off down the line and we’ll have a few more home games too.”
The Nitehawks next home game goes on Dec. 8 against the Nelson Leafs.