Game 1 of the KIJHL final was a tepid affair, with both teams testing opposition waters, but in the end the Beaver Valley Nitehawks picked up the pace and skated to a 4-2 win over the Kelowna Chiefs.
The Nitehawks netted the winner after Justin Niminiken, Tyler Collins and Max Flanagan forechecked hard in the Chiefs end, forcing a turnover. Niminiken picked up the puck at the hash marks and blasted a shot on goal, Collins jumped on the rebound and banged it home to make it 3-1 with 11:45 to play in the second period.
As anticipated the first period was a bit tentative and despite three power plays for each side, neither team generated many good scoring opportunities.
The Nitehawks opened the scoring in the first when Chris Derochie dug the puck out of the corner and sent a cross-ice pass to Dallas Calvin. Number 22 waited, then cooly fed Martin in the slot. The rookie wasted no time snapping the puck behind Chiefs goalie Tyler O’Donnell to make it 1-0 with just under four minutes to play in the opening period.
The Chiefs tied the game 37 seconds into the second period on their own man advantage. As they worked the puck tight to the goal, Dane Rupert chipped in a rebound over Hawk goalie Mike Vlanich.
Minutes later, Vlanich made a senstational save sliding across and robbing Chiefs’ Scott Renner with a blocker. The save seemed to spark the Hawks. After a face off in the Chiefs end Craig Martin passed to Derochie in the slot who feathered a gift to Edwards at the side of the open net to make it 2-1.
However, the Chiefs answered back. Catching the Nitehawks on a change, Landon Andrusiak slid a pass to Rupert on a 2 on 1, and the former Nelson Leaf fired it top corner for his second of the night with 21 seconds to go in the middle frame.
Vlanich again bailed them out with a couple break-away saves in the third period to keep it at 3-2, until Derochie iced it with an empty netter to make it 4-2.
When asked whether assistant coach Jeremy Cominotto was satisfied with the win, he replied: “I’m not satisfied with it all. It was a disappointing effort. When you’re on a stage like the league final, you expect to be a lot better. We’ll be expecting a lot more tomorrow and we’ll get it.”
Game 2 goes tonight at the Beaver Valley Arena at 7 p.m.