A Titanic battle between the two KIJHL Conference champions, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Kamloops Storm, begins tonight in Kamloops as the best-of-seven league championship series gets underway.
The Nitehawks and Storm cruised through the first three rounds of the playoffs with relative ease, the Hawks going 12-3 on its way to the Kootenay Conference crown, while the Storm lost just twice on its road to the Okanagan/Shushwap Conference title.
Yet, the two teams didn’t face each other at all during the 2013-14 season, and little is known of the Storm that breezed to the KIJHL regular season championship with 85 points, while the Nitehawks amassed 80 points in an arguably tougher Kootenay Conference.
“We don’t really know too much about Kamloops,” said Beaver Valley assistant coach Jamie Cominotto. “We didn’t play them this year, but they’re going to be a good team, they won the league. We’re just going to play our style, and that’s all we can do.”
The Hawks and Kamloops are both fathoms deep offensively, but the Storm may have an advantage in scoring-distribution as eight players in their lineup finished the season with more than 40 points, compared to four from the Nitehawks.
Former Prince Albert Raider and Penticton Vee, Brock Balson, led the Storm in scoring with 26 goals and 48 assists for 74 points on the season. The 21-year-old forward started his 2012-13 season with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks before being traded to the Vees for the final 38 games.
The back end is anchored by 21-year-old Daniel Buchanan, who was also an offensive force finishing third in Kamloops scoring with 23 goals and 44 assists, while playing with an edge and racking up 102 minutes in penalties.
Liam McLeod, 18, and Wade Moyls, 20, shared goaltending duties, with McLeod going 7-2 in the playoffs so far, with a 2.05 goals against average and a .908 save percentage, while Moyls has seen action in six games going 5-1 with a 1.47 GAA, and a .946 save percentage.
“They are going to be a strong team, i think their goaltending has been good for them. But it’s tough to judge a team you haven’t really seen, but you don’t win the league if you’re not a quality team.”
As for special teams the teams are very close with the Hawks having a slightley better success rate on the power play during the season, 26.92 compared with 25.47 for Kamloops, while the Storm was better defensively with a 83.15 per cent rate on the PK, as opposed to 83.02 per cent for the Hawks.
The Nitehawks will rely on strong goaltending from Brett Clark, and play the hard-checking and fast-paced game that got them past the likes of division champions Nelson and Creston.
“By and large we’re pretty healthy, and in a pretty good frame of mind,” said Hawks coach Terry Jones. “It’s great to be playing hockey at this time of year.”