In what was probably the best game of the tournament, if not the season, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks completed their quest for the Cyclone Taylor Cup with a dramatic 5-2 come-from-behind victory over the Aldergrove Kodiaks on Sunday at the Nelson Rec Complex.
The Nitehawks went through the four-day tournament undefeated, beating Aldergrove Thursday 4-1, tying the Nelson Leafs on Friday 2-2, and shutting out Victoria on Saturday 3-0, to secure their spot in Sunday’s final and ultimately win their third Junior B provincial championship.
“It hasn’t completely sunk in yet,” said Nitehawks assistant coach Jamie Cominotto. “It’s just a great feeling. I’m just so happy for our 20 year olds: Archie McKinnon, Fraser Stang, Keenan Patershuck, Eddie (Ryan Edwards), and Holly (Dan Holland). Those guys just really stepped up when we needed them too, and I’m just so happy for them, they deserve every minute of this.”
For McKinnon, the Cyclone has been on his mind since last summer when he and Edwards told coach Terry Jones that they were ready and willing to make a run for it.
“It was so worth it,” said McKinnon “This is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. You have to battle through it all, the team battled, and it was awesome . . . They wanted to beat us as much as we wanted to beat them, but we just believed throughout the whole game.”
It was a fitting end to a season that had it’s share of ups-and-downs. After coming off the elation of a KIJHL championship just over a week ago, the team was sobered by the tragic death of friend and former minor hockey league teammate and Nelson AP, Nolan Handley.
“Everybody deals with something like that in their own way,” said Cominotto. “We didn’t know how the boys were going to react, and Riley Brandt and Kyle Hope were really close with Nolan and I think by the way Bubba played he wanted Nolan to see this and be part of it, and the way he played you could say he dedicated it to Nolan.”
Brandt had a great series finishing second in tournament scoring behind Dallas Calvin (4-3-7) with three goals and three assists including a goal and an assist in the final match.
The Hawks followed an impressive opening game win over Aldergrove, with a disappointing effort against the Leafs. The last game of the round robin was a must-win match with Victoria to see who made Sunday’s final.
It didn’t look good when Calvin left the game with injury in the first period, but the team played suffocating defence and goaltender Brett Clark was unbeatable stopping 27 shots for the 3-0 shutout, as the Cougars went 0-for-7 on the power play.
“We just try to do our job, and stop the pucks from going into our net,” said Hawks defenceman Stang who was a rock on the back end. “Clarky played unreal too. It wasn’t just D, it was a great team effort all around.”
The Nitehawks, whose defence often goes unheralded, shut down opponent offences all weekend, allowing just five goals in four games.
But it was Calvin who would shine on the big stage, rebounding from injury to score two goals, including the winner with 5:57 remaining in the third, and adding two assists in the final game.
The game and tournament MVP jumped into the Aldergrove zone on a 2-on-1 with Stafford, but his attempted pass was broken up by the Kodiak defenceman. Calvin regained control and lifted the puck over the pad of goalie Jordan Liem to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead.
“I tried to pass it back to Stafford on the 2-on-1 and it actually bounced right back to me and I just whacked it and it managed to roll right into the net,” said Calvin who had spent a couple hours at the hospital following the Cougars’ game.
After a tight-checking first period, Riley Brandt opened the scoring on the Hawks’ first power-play opportunity, banging in a Calvin cross-ice feed to give B.V. a 1-0 lead. However, the Kodiaks would reply when Kenny Prato walked in on a 2-on-1 and fired a wrist shot into the top corner at 12:49 to send the game into the third deadlocked at 1-1.
It was a fast-pace, hard-hitting, intense match up, and the Kodiaks gained momentum in the second period outshooting the Hawks 10-6.
Aldergrove then grabbed the outright lead at 17:45 of the third on a power-play goal by Jonathon Philley to make it 2-1, as his shot from the slot tipped off a Nitehawk’s stick over the glove of Clark.
Cue the comeback.
“We just didn’t panic on the bench,” said Hawks coach Terry Jones. “It was a power play goal there was 15 minutes left in the game, we didn’t panic and our veteran presence, we just built on a few good shifts, got a power play and tied it up.”
Fuller would tie it on the man advantage, taking a pass from Calvin and Brandt, then wheeling and firing a low shot from the slot that eluded a screened Jordan Liem. Calvin would tie it and add an insurance marker at 3:54, finishing a pretty 2-on-1 passing play with Fuller.
“It’s unbelievable, there was a few of us here a couple years ago, when we finished fourth place didn’t even get a medal, so to come all this way in two years with a totally different team just feels unreal,” said Calvin.
Fruitvale’s own Mitch Foyle would net another with seconds left on the clock to leave nothing to question but the celebration.
The Nitehawks outshot the Kodiaks 25-21 with Clark playing another solid game in net for the Hawks. Beaver Valley also went 3-for-5 on the power play while the Kodiaks were 1-for-4.
“There’s nothing like this,” said Foyle. “We worked so much and so hard to get here, and it feels great to come out on top. We put in a ton of work, and the stuff we had to do was incredible, and it just feels that much better when you get there.”
The Cyclone Taylor championship was the first in 13 years for the Nitehawks organization.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Hawks president Dennis Bedin. “I’m really proud of these guys, they worked hard all year to get here, they got here and they didn’t disappoint. They won the B.C. Championship, Cyclone Taylor, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks executive, the whole area, we’re proud of these guys. They played through a lot of pain, and they’re champions, they are champions.”
The Leafs meanwhile lost to Victoria on Thursday, 6-1, and the Kodiaks on Saturday 2-1 to spoil any chance of meeting the Hawks in the final. Nelson then lost the bronze-medal game on Sunday to Victoria 3-0.