Two goals from defenceman Kevan McBean, a bit of line juggling, and a goaltender change paid dividends for the Beaver Valley Nitehawks on Monday in the Hawks Nest as Liam Coulter came up huge stopping 29 shots in a 4-2 victory over the Castlegar Rebels.
“I thought tonight, it was the game we needed, a must-win for us,” said Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones. “And we came out with that approach, and I just thought our guys competed so much harder tonight than we did in Castlegar. I give Castlegar full credit for winning the first two games, they outplayed us pretty badly.”
McBean tallied the game winner for the Hawks, intercepting an attempted clearing pass from Rebels goalie Tanner Douglas, then pausing at the Rebels blue line for the Hawks winger to clear the zone, before stepping in and firing a laser top shelf for a 3-1 B.V. lead with 2:42 remaining in the second period.
“I just saw the goalie go out and make the play, and he just kinda passed it right on my stick,” said McBean after the game. “I waited for Nolan (Percival) to get back onside and lucky he did. I saw the goalie was a little bit out of position, and I just shot it top right.
The Hawks dropped the first two games of the best-of-seven Murdoch Division playoff to the Rebels in Castlegar losing 5-3 Friday and 3-0 Saturday. B.V. starter Owen Sikkes played well, but the Hawks coaching staff decided a goaltending change on their return to the friendly confines of the B.V. Arena, where B.V. went 17-6-0-1 this season, was a necessary one.
“We went with Liam (Coulter) tonight,” said Jones. “It’s not that Sikkes played poorly but we just thought Liam would give us a great game, and he did, he gave us a spark to get us going.”
B.V. came out determined in the first period and fired 16 shots at Rebels goalie Tanner Douglas, who shut out the Hawks for the fourth straight period. Coulter was also solid in the first, stopping nine shots that included a shorthanded breakaway chance by Chris Breeze and a sprawling pad save on Tanner Costa.
The Hawks best chance came with just over three minutes on the clock. The Hawks d-man found Jaxen Gemmell at centre ice and the veteran Hawk broke in and just missed the top corner keeping the game scoreless heading into two.
“I thought everyone just had a really good hard 60,” added McBean. “We played as a team and everyone really bought in today, there was no quit in anyone.”
The Rebels opened the scoring at 14:49 of the second period. Following two glorious scoring chances for the Nitehawks, the Rebels quick transition sent Andrew Petten in on a breakaway, and the Fort McMurray native fired a snap shot glove side, before crashing into Coulter for the 1-0 lead.
B.V. responded just over a minute later, when Dylan Heppler skated gingerly into the Rebels zone, looked to pass then wired a wrister top shelf on Douglas to tie it at 1-1.
“We’ve definitely been squeezing the stick a little bit so Hep’s 4-on-4 goal was a big goal to get us going,” said Jones. “From there we seemed to relax a little bit.”
Coulter’s prime piece of larceny came off Rebels forward Ren Mason midway through the second period. Mason took a pass in the slot and went forehand-backhand and had the Hawks goalie going the other way, but Coulter laid down the glove to rob Mason of a sure goal. Thirty seconds later, the Calgary native’s quick glove victimized Castlegar’s John Moeller on a point-blank shot from the slot.
“Who knows if Ren’s [Mason] play, where he almost deked out the goaltender, if that puck goes in, maybe that gives us enough motivation to put everything else aside,” Rebels coach Bill Rotheisler told the Castlegar News. “You have to be mentally strong to realize that you don’t know the price of goal for that particular day.”
The frantic pace continued and after Tanner Costa was sent off for slashing, the Nitehawks capitalized. Kevan McBean collapsed in from the point and slipped a shot past Douglas but the puck settled on the left post where Bradley Ross shoveled it in for the 2-1 lead.
Following McBean’s late goal, the Nitehawks took a 3-1 lead into the third, as frustration grew for the Rebels.
“We’re sitting there getting mad at refs during the play when you’re supposed to be backchecking,” said Rotheisler. “It’s one thing to voice your opinion between whistles, but we’re talking during the play when you’re supposed to be contributing to the play. They owned us mentally.”
Tensions peaked when B.V.’s Jake Yuris and Castlegar’s Andrew Petten threw down the gloves and went toe-to-toe at the Rebels blue line 6:27 into the final frame.
McBean then scored his second of the night on a brilliant individual rush midway through the third stanza. The Calgary native picked up the puck in his own end, flew through the neutral zone and over the blue line, where his initial shot bounced off the Rebel defender’s leg, right back to the B.V. defenceman who made no mistake on his second chance burying it past Douglas for a 4-1 lead.
“It felt pretty good (scoring two goals) but it felt better to get the win, obviously,” said McBean. “I’m just glad we got this one under our belt, now we can really get going.”
Castlegar pressed in the late going, and after Eric Bocale and Sam Swanson received back-to-back penalties, the Rebels executed the two-man advantage perfectly, as Campbell tapped in a Moeller backdoor pass to cut the lead to two.
“We have to be more disciplined,” said Jones. “We get behind the eight-ball and allow a 5-on-3 or 6-on-3 goal, I mean we have to stay out of those scrums, stay out of the box. They have a good power play and we have to stay off it.”
Still on the power play, the Rebels pressured relentlessly and, with their goalie pulled in the final 90 seconds, the desperate Rebels threw everything they had at the Nitehawks net, but blocked shots and sprawling saves by Coulter preserved the Hawks’ win in a frenzied final moments.
Beaver Valley outshot the Rebels 41-31 and were 1-for-6 on the power play, while their penalty kill was good on 4-of-5 Rebel chances.
“I don’t make any excuses,” said Jones. “I didn’t like the way we responded in both games (in Castlegar). I didn’t thing we played with the zest we needed in a playoff hockey game. Tonight the backs we’re against the wall and we competed like we have to compete.”