The Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Castlegar Rebels took their rivalry to a new level Wednesday night in an epic double-overtime Game 7 tilt at the Castlegar Rec Complex; unfortunately, for the Hawks, it was the Rebels turn as they came away with a 5-4 victory.
Down by two goals in both the second and third period, the Rebels rallied twice to tie it and send the game to overtime. But unlike previous Nitehawk wins, B.V. couldn’t keep the determined Rebels from completing the comeback.
“I thought we left it all out there,” said Hawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “We had two-goal leads twice and I thought we let the momentum get away from us.”
End-to-end action through the first OT delighted a deafening capacity crowd, then with 6:29 remaining in the fifth period, Diego Bartlett fired a snap shot from the slot that squeezed through the arm of Hawks goalie Jarrod Shamerhorn and trickled over the goal line, sending the Castlegar contingent into delirium and the ample Nitehawk supporters to despair.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Bartlett told the Castlegar News after the game. “It’s an amazing feeling but I can’t take all the credit. The team played great, came back twice from 2-0, and you know, we just didn’t give up. We battled to the last goal and we’re very excited.”
The Nitehawks were confident coming off a 5-0 Game 6 win Monday, and had a number of great chances in overtime to win it including a phenomenal point-blank save by Jordan Gluck off Michael Bell just prior to Bartlett’s winner.
“I am disappointed,” said Jones. “I thought we were the better team to be honest with you. A big part of the series we dominated, even tonight when we got into overtime I thought we carried overtime play. The fact that there weren’t any penalties called I felt was a little bit ridiculous . . . but ultimately they (Castlegar) played hard and they’ve got a group of guys that have good character, and work hard and they found a way to be succesful.”
The game was intense, the arena packed, and in the tradition of all great rivalries it exceeded expectations, offering everything an epic Game 7 match should: bone-crunching hits, daring rushes, pretty goals, controversial calls, great saves, and the ecstatically fatal sudden death.
Indeed it was a shame the game should end, and that a team should lose. But for Castlegar to come back in the third was testament to the fortitude they played with all year, that won them the KIJHL regular-season championship.
“Hats off to our guys for never saying die,” said Rebel coach Steve Junker. “We hadn’t been coming back in this series when we got down. We kind of lost our mojo a little bit, but tonight we just wouldn’t quit.”
After a scoreless first period, the Nitehawks jumped into a 1-0 lead when Danny Vlanich made a great move around a defenceman at the top of the circle then dished to Keenan Patershuk who fired it home.
A minute later Ryan Edwards would make it 2-0 walking in on a 2-on-1 and roofing it over Gluck’s glove. But the Rebels stole the momentum, getting back-to-back goals from Stuart Walton and Jamie Vlanich to tie it heading into the third.
Yet again, the Hawks owned the opening minutes, and just 73 seconds in, Dallas Calvin set up the screen, then roofed a shot over the glove of the Rebel goalie to retake the lead. Arie Postmus, playing in his final game as a Nitehawk, made it 4-2 finding the back of the net on a point shot through traffic with 16:41 to play.
But the persistent Rebels kept coming. Outshooting the Hawks 16-7 in the third period, it was Hunter Jenerou that brought Castlegar within one with a blast from the blue line that eluded a screened Hawk goalie at 9:57. The Rebels contiued to pressure and three minutes later speedy forward Travis Wellman would bank one off the knee of Brendan Heinrich parked at the top of the crease to tie it at 4-4.
The first-overtime period was much of the same, back and forth intensity, with both teams coming close to winning it. In one series Gluck stoned Hawk forward Levi Kress on the doorstep, then a streaking Wellman took a breakaway pass, flew in all alone, only to be thwarted by Schamerhorn who was brilliant in making 47 saves on the night.
But it would be Bartlett who played hero in the second OT to lift the Rebels to their second Murdoch division title in three years.
As for what now lies in front of the team, Bartlett concluded, “We’ve got to stick to what we’re doing… and you know what? We’re ready.”
Castlegar will play Golden for the Kootenay Conference championship starting Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Castlegar Complex.
KIJHL notes: Greater Trail native Garrett Kucher and the Osoyoos Coyotes will take on the North Okanagan Knights for the Okanagan-Shushwap Conference title starting Friday. The third-seeded Coyotes bounced the top-seed Kelowna Chiefs in six games Tuesday, with a 2-1 overtime win.