There is no team the Beaver Valley Nitehawks would rather clinch the Neil Mudoch division title against than the Castlegar Rebels.
With a comfortable 11-point lead over the second-place Rebels, the Hawks need to win one of their two games against Castlegar this weekend to take the title.
The Nitehawks play a pair of games against their bitter rival before facing Golden and Spokane next week, and end the season with a home-and-home matchup against Nelson, Feb. 17-18.
The Hawks are on a six game winning streak in which they outscored opponents 45-13, and with playoffs looming, the coaching staff has no intention of letting up.
“We’re fine tuning a few things with the way we’re playing but we’re not changing a whole bunch,” said head coach and GM Terry Jones. “We’re trying to maintain our momentum more than anything else.”
Assistant Mike Morissette and consultant Dave Pasin analyze video of the games, offering insights to coaching staff and players and will be keeping a close eye on the final matches against division rivals.
“We’ve got video of Nelson, Castlegar and Spokane and whoever we’re facing we will be able to see a little bit more as we prepare for it,” added Jones.
If the Hawks finish first, they will play Spokane in the first round. With a victory, they will face the winner of Nelson and Castlegar in the division final.
“The guys are really excited about getting into the playoffs, and when we’re playing Castlegar, Nelson and Spokane we are already fired up and ready to go, there is just an extra amount of emotion that lends itself to playoff hockey.”
The Hawks are relatively healthy heading into the home stretch and with a potent offence, rock-solid defence, and great goaltending, should go deep into the playoffs.
“We’re prepared, but the main thing is seeing how we’ll handle adversity,” said Jones. “We’ve done it throughout the year but haven’t had a whole bunch of it . . . that’s why playing these last few games against Castlegar and Nelson is a real nice test.”
While the Hawks boast the top three scorers in the league, in the last half of the season, offence has been spread pretty evenly up and down the lineup.
“I’d say we got four lines that can score,” said forward Dallas Calvin.
Many players including Calvin were part of last year’s team that lost in the division final to Castlegar but are determined to turn the tables this season.
“It will be a lot better series this year then it was last year,” guaranteed Calvin.
The Hawks and Rebels face off tonight at the B.V. Arena in Fruitvale at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday in Castlegar at 7:30 p.m. at the Castlegar Complex.