There is definitely no love lost between the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Castlegar Rebels as they faced off in what is just the first of many more battles to come in the opening game of the second-round KIJHL playoffs.
The pace was frantic, the hitting punishing as both teams played a tight physical game but when the final whistle blew it was the Nitehawks who emerged with a 4-1 victory.
With the game tied 1-1, it didn’t take long for the Hawks to get what proved to be the winner a minute into the final frame. With a Castlegar defenceman draped all over him, Ryan Edwards managed to hang onto the puck behind the Rebel net until he found an open Craig Martin who snapped it passed goalie Jordan Gluck to make it 2-1.
The Nitehawks came out hitting in the first, sacrificing the body, blocking shots and shutting down the Rebels forwards.
Neither team had many or great scoring opportunities until midway through the first, when Derek Lashuk head-manned the puck to a streaking Brantley Schapansky who broke to the net, cut across the crease and lifted the puck over a sprawling Gluck.
The score remained 1-0 until the 13:30 mark of the second. The Hawks physicality got the better of them when Nick Perez took a boarding penalty. The Rebels pressed hard and defenceman Erik Alden took a pass from Brenden Heinrich and fired it off the post by a screened Mike Vlanich.
But the tight, physical game didn’t bother assistant coach Jeremy Cominotto, even with the scored tied 1-1 heading into the third.
“We’re really comfortable with how the game is going so far,” he said between periods. “We were taken back a bit by the speed in the first period. It’s a lot quicker than it was against Spokane but I think we’ve adapted well.”
After Martin put the Hawks up 2-1, he added another with 9:18 to go in the third. Derochie drifted a shot in from the point, Gluck stopped it but Martin hammered away at the puck, finally putting under the down-and-out Rebel goaltender to make it 3-1.
Tyler Collins had a great game for the Hawks, blocking numerous shots and delivering a number of crushing checks, particularly on an unfortunate Rebel defenseman, Tyler Mingus. With about five minutes to go in the third, Collins caught Mingus with his head down and hammered him with a clean check to put an exclamation point on the win. Justin Niminiken would score an empty netter with 59 seconds to go to ice it.
The Nitehawks host the Rebels for Game 2 tonight at the Beaver Valley Arena at 7 p.m .