The Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Castlegar Rebels are poised for another Game 7 thriller as the teams vie for the Neil Murdoch division title tonight in Castlegar.
The Hawks took Game 6 by a 5-0 score in Beaver Valley on Monday, forcing the seventh and deciding match in a repeat of last year’s division final.
While the Rebels won Games 5 and 6 last season to force Game 7 at the Hawks Nest, this year’s final tilt will be in Castlegar, but the Hawks’ are hoping for the same result.
“I think we have to keep the game simple,” said B.V. coach and GM Terry Jones. “We’ve been victimized by poor decisions at the offensive blue line and I think we have to just keep our decision-making solid and simple and keep pucks deep and play in their zone. If we can do that, it’s certainly when we’re at our most successful.”
The Hawks are no stranger to seven-game series, beating the Rebels last season with a 5-3 come-from-behind win in the final match, they also triumphed over Nelson in the seventh game of the opening round of 2011, and fell to the Leafs in the deciding game of the 2010 opening-round series.
“If everyone takes care of their own job we’ll win the game,” said assistant coach Jeremy Cominotto. “We don’t have to worry about them, we don’t have to worry about the refs, we just have to worry about ourselves and we’ll win.”
Jarrod Schamerhorn got the shut out and was the game’s first star, while Taylor Stafford received the second star nod and proved to be the spark plug that ignited the Hawks’ offence.
After a tight checking, scoreless first period, and much of the same to start the second, Stafford finally broke the goose egg with 6:19 remaining on a great individual effort.
“We weren’t playing well to start the second either, but the goal by Stafford was huge, it got everything going,” said Jones.
The Hawks’ rookie took a pass from Riley Brandt, but was forced wide around the net by the Rebels Stuart Walton. Stafford made a tight reverse behind the goal, shaking Walton, walked out in front and put it under Castlegar goalie Jordan Gluck to make it 1-0.
“I was just going hard, made a quick spin off the defenceman, drove right to the net, and in she went,” said Stafford.
The goal seemed to awaken an offence that had been thwarted all night by Gluck and the Rebels defence. Two minutes later, after Rebel Kody Disher was sent off for tripping, Ryan Edwards scored his first of the game on a pretty passing play from Dallas Calvin, with Schamerhorn also getting an assist, to put the home side up 2-0 heading to the third.
Less than four minutes in, Keenan Patershuk wired a wrist shot over the blocker of Gluck to make it 3-0 and 34 seconds later Edwards was sent in on a 2-on-1 by Danny Vlanich and snapped the shot top corner to give the Hawks a commanding 4-0 lead.
It was Edwards’ second goal of the night and 10th goal in the playoffs to go with 13 assists as the veteran forward leads all playoff scorers.
“I’m just trying to work my hardest out there, getting shots at the net and making plays,” said Edwards. “Things are just going my way right now.”
Levi Kress topped off an excellent game, with the Hawks fifth goal as he banged in his own rebound on a power-play to make it 5-0 Hawks.
Schamerhorn made 25 saves for his first playoff shutout and came up big on several occasions, particularly when Castlegar enjoyed a 5-on-3 power play midway through the third period.
“I thought I played pretty solid, but I couldn’t have done it without the guys,” said Schamerhorn. “The d-men really helped me out on the scrambles and really helped the guys out. It was an all-round good effort by the team and a solid game by everyone.”
The Kelowna native has five wins and three losses in the playoffs for the Hawks and with a 0.919 save percentage and a 2.59 GAA, will likely be the starter for Game 7.
The Rebels went 0-for-6 on the power play and have had trouble scoring with the man-advantage all series, while the Hawks were 2-for-5.
But the Hawks will have to bring their A game if they look to knock off the Murdoch division regular-season champions tonight.
“We’ve been two different teams in this series, but you know what so I have they,” said Cominotto. “I’m sure they’re not too happy with their performance tonight (Monday).”
It has been a physical, if not dirty series at times, prompting outrage and concern from fans on both sides, but one that never ceases to entertain.
“It’s always a fun matchup against Castlegar, going into Game 7 it’s going to be exciting,” said Edwards. “Everyone’s got to work their hardest and hopefully we’ll come out with the win.”
The puck drops tonight at the Castlegar Rec Complex at 7:30 p.m.
KIJHL notes: The Fernie Ghostriders shut out the Golden Rockets 2-0 Monday to cut Golden’s series lead to 3-2, while the Osoyoos Coyotes won a 5-4 thriller in overtime against Kelowna Chiefs to take a 3-2 series lead.