The Beaver Valley Nitehawks deserved more than a point against the Grand Forks Border Bruins on Tuesday, but goaltender Kai McDonald was unbeatable in extra time, thwarting the Nitehawks attack time and again to salvage a point for the plucky Bruins.
McDonald stopped 47 shots and Jackson Purvis scored all three goals including the tying marker with 43 ticks left on the clock to make it 3-3 and earn the Bruins a road-point in Beaver Valley Tuesday night.
“Anytime we can take a point out of a team like Beaver Valley in their barn is huge,” said vice president and interim coach Matt Zamec.
The Nitehawks were poised to collect two points, but with less than a minute to go, the Bruins hemmed the Hawks in their own end. A clearing attempt failed and Connor Gross lifted the puck towards the net where Purvis, alone in the slot, gloved the puck out of the air, and beat Nitehawk goalie Grayson Sharpe between the pads for the natural hat trick.
“Obviously we weren’t happy with the outcome there,” said Hawks assistant coach Kevin Limbert. “There was a bit of lapse in focus and a lapse in assignments. I think we should have probably been able to hold the lead there in the final seconds. Overall it was a step in the right direction, but we still have some work to do.”
Grand Forks opened the scoring 25 seconds into the first when the 19-year-old Purvis broke down the left side and beat Sharpe on the backhand. The Bruins would jump out to a 2-0 lead when Reid Robertson hit the Lethbridge native with a breakaway pass and Purvis pulled a Peter Forsberg, deking the Hawks goalie to one side then slipping in the backhand dangle.
The Hawks would get on the board with 3:06 to go in the first. After the Bruins’ Tucker Brown took an interference penalty, Taylor Stafford worked the puck down low and dished to Michael Bell on the doorstep to make it 2-1.
Ryan Edwards would tie it at 17:23 of the second on an innocent looking point shot from Andrew Clark that Edwards tipped over the shoulder of the Bruin goalie.
The Nitehawks would seize the lead two minutes into the third period when Sam Swanson tapped in a nice set up from Dallas Calvin and Kyle Hope.
Despite numerous opportunities, the Hawks couldn’t extend the lead, as McDonald kept the Bruins in the game, blocking shot after shot and frustrating Nitehawk players who could not convert despite multiple breakaways on the night.
“I think we’re squeezing our sticks a little bit,” said Limbert. “Some players they are a little snake bit, but credit their goalie, he played really well. I think we could have adjusted by shooting more for rebounds and crashing the net to make his life more difficult, but he played well and battled hard for them.”
The 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 overtimes solved nothing with both teams getting stellar chances but unable to capitalize. The best opportunities came on a Ryan Edwards breakaway near the end of the first OT that McDonald stymied with a shoulder save, and then turned aside a pair of point-blank blasts from Calvin and Edwards in the last minute of the second OT.
Sharpe was also sharp in the two extra frames for the Hawks, stopping 11 shots in OT and 41 on the night.
For Grand Forks, the game came just one day after the announcement that Bruin bench boss Nick Deschenes was leaving the team and taking over as coach and GM of the Trail Smoke Eaters.
“We broke the news to the boys last night, so at this point it was about 24 hours ago,” said Zamec. “Obviously it was a shock for the boys, but everyone is behind Nick, I mean it’s a great opportunity for him, and obviously he’s done a great job with us and he’ll do a great job there.”
The Border Bruins have made a dramatic turn around, thanks in no small part to the outgoing coach Deschenes, but Zamec, who has been with the team as assistant for eight years, is determined to keep the ball rolling.
“It’s a testament to the boys, and a testament to Nick, we have a solid core in there and the boys believe in each other, they see what they can accomplish, and it feels great to be a part of. My role is just to see that it doesn’t get derailed and keep them on track.”