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Fernie Ghostriders win Conference title, shut out B.V. Nitehawks in Game 6

B.V. Nitehawks’ comeback falls short in 4-0 loss to Fernie, Ghostriders move on to KIJHL championship
The Beaver Valley Nitehawks battled back but were eliminated from the Kootenay Conference final in a 4-0 Game 6 loss to the Fernie Ghostriders on Saturday, March 30. Photo: Steve Piccolo

Beaver Valley Nitehawks’ quest for the Teck Cup came to an end on Saturday, March 30 in Fernie.

The Nitehawks lost 4-0 to the Fernie Ghostriders after coming back from a 3-0 series deficit with two straight wins to force a Game 6 in the best-of-7 series final.

“When you get down 3-0, you don’t have a lot of room for error,” said Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones. “Even though we felt pretty good about our game in Game 4 and Game 5, from Game 4 on it did feel like whoever scored first was going to have a huge advantage.”

With the win, the Ghostriders captured the Kooteny Conference banner and a berth to the KIJHL championship Teck Cup.

Kyler Watson scored the game winner with his fifth goal on a set up from Riley Enns with 4:46 left in the second period.

“I felt like once we gave up the first goal, we were fatigued, we had some panic, it felt like we just changed our game a little too much,” explained Jones.

“But full marks to Fernie, who had lost a 3-0 series last year. They knew what they had to do when they got up on us.”

Coden Fournier scored the insurance goal with his sixth playoff marker just over three minutes later.

Ens made it 3-0 early in the third, and Watson notched his second of the game into an empty net with 2:57 left in regulation.

Nick Kunyk earned his first KIJHL Teck Cup playoff shutout with a 26-save performance. Connor Stojan made 29 saves for the Nitehawks.

“Losing the first two games, when you look back on it, it hurts to lose those first two at home,” said Jones.

The Nitehawks fell 3-2 in Game 3, before bouncing back to win Game 4 in overtime to stay alive, and then returned to B.V. for Game 5 and another 3-2 victory this time in regulation. But the Nitehawks could not complete the comeback against a determined and physical Fernie team in Game 6.

“Their goaltending was outstanding, number 1, and number 2, in almost every game it felt like we were coming from behind. The guys felt the stress of that, and when you do that, you stop playing the way you normally do.”

B.V. also played for the Kootenay Conference title last season, when they fell to the Kimberley Dynamiters in four straight. The last time the Nitehawks won the conference title was in 2016-17 when they also captured the KIJHL championship and Cyclone Taylor Cup.

Jones has been an integral part of Beaver Valley’s legacy for almost 30 years, and has won eight league championships, the most of any current KIJHL team. The Nitehawks, led by top defenceman and MVP Kaleb Percival and veteran MVP goalie Connor Stojan, looked poised to take the path all the way to the Teck Cup this season.

“We’ve been doing this a long time, and we have a veteran group of guys who have been through this before. They have had those experiences to prepare them for those moments, and you hope that this is the year.

“And so it’s been disappointing, and it’s been a hard couple days, because you know the time and effort that these guys and members of our coaching staff have put in, so it is disappointing for sure, but it is sport. After a couple days, I’m okay with it, and you start rebuilding and see what the process for next year looks like.”

With the loss, the Nitehawks wrap up a season filled with positives, including another Murdoch division title, several individual awards, and the third best record in the KIJHL at 32-9-0-2.

But for Jones and his coaching staff, success isn’t only measured by championship banners.

“It’s been a really tremendous group of young men to work with, guys who are really committed to practice, to working, and getting better. This great leadership, and some guys, they came so far in their development - guys like Spencer Dixon-Reusz. The more I think about him over a three-year period, it is amazing to watch a guy develop into a solid player but also an amazing leader on top of it all.”

Jones cited many Hawks players who came in young and passionate, and matured into top players and leaders in the room and off the ice.

“I could go on and on, but as individuals how hard they played, and what they brought to our team and organization, I just can’t say enough about them.”

Fernie’s last trip to the KIJHL championship dates back to 2008, when they won their second straight title over the Kamloops Storm. The Ghostriders will play the Revelstoke Grizzlies or Princeton Posse in the Teck Cup final series, depending on tonight’s (Monday, April 1) Game 7 result.

Jim Bailey

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