The Beaver Valley Nitehawks celebrated their second series sweep in the KIJHL playoffs, downing the Nelson Leafs 4-1 to capture the Neil Murdoch Division title on Saturday.
After edging the Leafs 3-2 in double overtime in Game 3 Friday in Nelson, B.V. dominated Game 4 holding Nelson to just 10 shots for the series-clinching victory.
“I thought it was probably our best effort of the playoffs,” said Nitehawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “I thought we came out and we were really skating and we carried over the play from Game 3 to Game 4. We knew we had them on the ropes and we really were skating well, and when we’re skating we’re a hard team to beat.”
The Hawks Kyle Hope netted the winning goal and first of the playoffs at 3:43 of the first period. Hawks center Tyler Hartman won a faceoff in the Leafs zone back to Hope who wired it past Nelson goalie Billy Gorn blocker side for a 2-0 lead.
“It was a big shot, and Kyle had a great game,” said Jones. “He’s coming off an injury and illness so it’s good to see him get his skating feet beneath him, come back and play so good.”
Gorn took the crease from Leafs goalie Devin Allen, who had been outstanding between the pipes in both series and was the Leafs’ player of the game in Game 3.
While the Leafs played a gruelling six-game playoff series in Round 1 against the Castlegar Rebels in which they faced off in nine overtime periods, the team was in tough against the Nitehawks who lost just five games in regulation all season, and finished atop the regular season KIJHL standings.
“I’m very proud of how the team (Nelson) played,” Leafs head coach Mario DiBella told the Nelson Star. “They battled through 27 periods of hockey against Castlegar. The bottom line is we came out of that series tired and full of bumps and bruises, and they continued to compete. We played a very good Beaver Valley team that could have been down 3-0 as easily as they were up 3-0.”
Beaver Valley’s Tyler Ghirardosi put the Hawks on the board, firing in his own rebound on a setup from Dylan Heppler who wheeled into the Nelson zone and fed Ghirardosi on the far side for a 1-0 lead. After Hope made it 2-0, Nelson’s Alex Meeker stuffed in his own rebound on the power play to score on one of the Leafs’ three shots in the period with 37 seconds left to cut the lead to one.
Nolan Percival made it 3-1 and Jaxen Gemmell finished the scoring when he settled a bouncing pass from Hope, broke through the Leafs defence, and wired it into the Nelson net with 3:14 to play in the middle frame for the 4-1 final.
The Hawks outshot Nelson 24-10 with Hope receiving player of the game for his three-point night for B.V. and Meeker for Nelson.
“I couldn’t believe how strong they (Nelson) played,” said Jones. “They’re a physical team, and they really put it to us physically, and played us really hard. So we give them a lot of credit and a lot respect for a great season.”
In Friday’s game, Sam Swanson scored at 10:27 of the second overtime to lift the Hawks to a 3-2 Game 3 victory.
Damon Kramer and Blake Sidoni scored for the Nitehawks, while Sawyer Hunt and Dale Howell replied for the Leafs. The shots on goal were 29 apiece, with goaltenders Allen and B.V.’s Tallon Kramer named player of the game for their respective teams.
“Once we got into overtime, we really started to play our game again, and killed a couple penalties off,” said Jones. “We didn’t lose our composure, and didn’t let things get away from us. Tallon’s the most important guy that way and he was calm and cool and it reflects on everybody else.”
The sweep gives the Nitehawks their fourth straight Neil Murdoch Division title, and a shot at their first Kootenay Conference championship since 2014. B.V. will play the winner of the Kimberley Dynamiters and Creston Valley Thunder Cats series.
The Dynamiters held a 3-1 advantage in the Eddie Mountain Division final before Game 5 on Monday night, but the score was unavailable at press time. Kimberley beat Creston 3-2 overtime in Game 4 Saturday, and a 4-3 OT victory in Game 3.
The Nitehawks have lost the last two Kootenay Conference finals to the Dynamiters, after running the table in 2014 and winning the KIJHL title, Cyclone Taylor and Keystone Cups.
The Nitehawks coach has no preference as to which team B.V. faces in the conference final, and hopes to see their Eddie Murdoch Division rivals series go the limit.
“It makes it harder when you have to play six-seven games in a series. We know both teams are good and had really good games with both teams this year. We look forward to any challenge that comes our way, and we’ll give it our best shot.”
Hawks Notes: The conference final series is set to start in B.V. Friday, and will give the Nitehawks a little recovery time, with Aiden Browell, McKoy Hauck, Blake Sidoni, and Ryan Terpsma all nursing injuries.
In the Okanagan-Shuswap conference, the Osoyoos Coyotes swept the Summerland Steam to move on to the conference final, where they will play the Chase Heat, after the Heat eliminated the Kamloops Storm in five games.