The Beaver Valley Nitehawks finished off their schedule against Neil Murdoch Division opponents in dramatic but winning fashion on the weekend.
The Nitehawks defeated the Castlegar Rebels 3-2 in the second overtime on Friday, then skated to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Nelson Leafs Saturday.
“Both games were very tight games,” said Nitehawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “Both featured excellent goaltending on our part … so it was two great results goaltending wise for our team, and really gutsy wins.”
The Hawks finished its eight-game series 7-1 against the Rebels and 6-2 versus the Leafs this season with all three losses coming in September. The Hawks have suffered just one loss since Sept. 30, and can wrap up the Kootenay Conference regular season title with one more victory and the KIJHL overall title with two more wins, to guarantee home-ice advantage for playoffs.
“I think it has some significance, in terms of the short window, and playoffs and other divisions,” said Jones. “It’s the best out of five playoff rounds, so it does have some significance and we’d like to get that feather in our cap for sure.”
The Hawks stormed back from a 3-1 third-period deficit to beat the Leafs 4-3. Mitch Foyle netted the winner, breaking in on the off-wing and wiring it by the Nelson goalie with 64 seconds left on the clock for the Nitehawks league-best 36th win.
“Mitch Foyle, he’s just dangerous, whenever he gets the puck on his stick and he gets a chance to shoot it, it’s got a chance, and that’s kind of what happened on the fourth goal,” said Jones.
Dylan Kent opened the scoring at 6:09 of the first period with a power-play goal, but the Leafs replied with two in the second period from Sawyer Hunt and Ryan Piva to go up 2-1. Dale Howell made it a two-goal lead at 16:19 of the final frame, before the Hawks cued up a couple turning points, said Jones.
“Owen (Sykkes) was amazing in the second period, keeping us in it, and we put (defenceman) McKoy Hauck up front, and he just provided a spark and leadership that just seemed to carry forward for the rest of the guys.”
Dylan Heppler batted the puck out of the air and in, on a shot from Blake Sidoni, to bring the Hawks to within one, and Bradley Ross made a nice play to setup Aiden Browell for his 10th of the season to tie it 3-3 on the power play at 7:59.
The Leafs outshot B.V. 30-25 with Sikkes getting the win in a solid performance for the Nitehawks, while Devin Allen took the loss for Nelson. Foyle earned the game star for B.V. and Piva for the Leafs.
In Friday’s match, Tallon Kramer stopped a penalty shot in the second OT period, and Foyle scored the 3-on-3 double-overtime winner for a thrilling 3-2 victory.
After a scoreless 4-on-4 first overtime, the Nitehawks were facing defeat when a penalty was called in the second OT resulting in an automatic penalty shot. The Leafs leading scorer Logan Styler skated in on Kramer and made a dazzling deke that left the Hawks goalie down and out, but Kramer lifted his pad at just the right moment to stop the shot and give the Hawks another life.
“Styler made a brilliant move, he had Tallon committed, but Tallon at the last minute somehow flipped his pads up to just get enough of the puck to keep it out of the net,” said Jones. “It was incredible.”
Foyle ended it shortly after when he took a pass from Sam Swanson walked in and sniped a quick snapshot past Chandler Billinghurst for the Hawks 14th straight victory. It was Foyle’s second of the game as Blake Sidoni scored the other Nitehawk marker, and Brandon Costa and John Moeller replied for the Rebels.
The Hawks outshot Castlegar 44-38 and were 0-for-4 on the power play while Castlegar went 1-for-7. Hawks AP Christian Macasso and the Rebels Billinghurst were named the game’s stars.
Despite the Hawks impressive record against its Neil Murdoch Division rivals, the close matches indicate the Rebels and Leafs will be fiercely competitive come playoff time in just over two weeks.
“Both teams are going to be tough teams to play in the playoffs, and we know that. Playoffs are a different animal and we’re down in numbers and letting some guys play for Trail (as affiliate players). We have some guys hurt at the last minute, so it was a great character win in Nelson being down, and seeing the guys come together like that.”
The Nitehawks are on the road on Wednesday for a tilt against the Creston Thunder Cats.