The Beaver Valley Nitehawks hit the ice for their home opener tonight at the Beaver Valley Arena at 7:30 p.m. against a surging Grand Forks Border Bruins squad, followed by a Saturday tilt against the Summerland Steam.
The Bruins have won all three of their games and currently sit perched on top of the standings by virtue of a 3-0 record. The Nitehawks are also undefeated but have played just one game, a 5-2 victory over Spokane last Friday.
“We’ve had a really good week of practice so far and you know what it’s kind of cool that Grand Forks is 3-0, I’m quite excited for them, but I’m hopeful that we can hand them their first loss,” said Nitehawk coach and GM Terry Jones.
Grand Forks seems to have acquired a measure of stability this season with returning coach Nick Deschenes and a good core of veteran players on board.
“He (Deschenes) is a big reason why they have 10 or 11 guys returning to their team,” said Jones.
The Bruins currently have the top two scorers in the KIJHL in veteran forwards Jackson Purvis who has three goals and six assists in three games, while Connor Gross is 2-5-7.
“They had a year of losing and now they want to win,” said Jones. “It’s a whole new attitude change and taking off on a winning start makes them that much more dangerous.”
The Bruins also have a stable backstop in former Nitehawk Dominic Stadnyk who has a 2.00 GAA, and a .945 save percentage in two starts this season.
Following the Bruins match, the Nitehawks play a relatively unknown and undefeated Summerland Steam squad.
The Steam are led by 20-year-old veterans Olli Dickson and Josh DaCosta, and recently acquired Sam Nigg who collected 51 points for the Kimberley Dynamiters last year. Goaltender Brett Huber, 19, has started both games for the Steam, posting a minuscule 0.50 GAA and a .984 save percentage in a 6-1 win over Revelstoke and a 4-0 shut out over Osoyoos Coyotes.
“We don’t have a lot to do with other divisions, in terms of scouting them and knowing what they got, but it’s a brand new season and we’re feeling ourselves out an so will they be. That’s what this time of the year is for.”
The Nitehawks, meanwhile, have a good mix of veteran and rookie players led by Ryan Edwards and Archie McKinnon, and Jones is confident that the team will compete again for the Murdoch Division title.
The Nitehawks will also welcome Fruitvale native Mitch Foyle to the Nitehawks fold once he gets his release from the Trail Smoke Eaters. The Smokies are looking to fill Foyle’s position and replace him with another 17 year old, as required by the BCHL.
“He will eventually be joining us,” said Jones. “Right now he still has to remain with the Smoke Eaters as they (the BCHL) have a rule where they have to have a minimum of two 16 or 17 year old players.
“I guess they have to have that at all times on their roster so he can’t be released until they can find somebody else to replace that part of their roster.”
Foyle will be a great offensive addition to a lineup that lacked scoring punch against top-end teams like Nelson in the preseason.
“He will be a great addition, and we’re excited about him joining our team.”
With the addition of Foyle, the Nitehawks will have carded the maximum 23 players allowed by the KIJHL.
Usually teams will leave extra cards open for “the trickle down effect” – signing players who get cut from BCHL or other Junior A leagues in order to improve their line up.
“It’s probably more than we want to be,” said Jones. “We’d like to be at 22 or 21 right now, but guys have played really well, and we feel we’re pretty deep, and they’re working hard, so we’ll just keep working hard and get better every day and will see what happens with our roster from there.”
The Nitehawks play the Border Bruins at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Beaver Valley Arena, and at the same time and place Saturday against Summerland.