The Beaver Valley Nitehawks weathered a late tempest by the Kamloops Storm, tying the KIJHL best-of-seven championship series at two games apiece with a 5-3 victory at the Hawks Nest in Beaver Valley on Tuesday.
Game 4 was a very different match for the Nitehawks than the previous one, as the team played sound defensive hockey and dominated the Storm offensively.
After giving up four goals on seven power-play tries in the Game 3 loss, the Hawks shutdown the vaunted Storm power play that went 0-for-5 on the night.
“I thought yesterday we kind of got away from our game,” said assistant coach Kevin Limbert. “Give credit to them, they played well and they played hard, and they took it to us physically, but there was large stretches of the game there where we just weren’t committed to winning the battle.”
The Hawks’ Dallas Calvin would score the eventual winner on a highlight-reel goal at 10:39 of the third period to give B.V. a 4-1 lead. Calvin broke in on a 2-on-1 with Braden Fuller, feathered a deft pass to Fuller who drew the defenceman over then saucered it back to Calvin, who undressed Liam MacLeod in the Storm net with a slick deke.
I thought we had a much better effort up and down the lineup, we had some outstanding performances tonight and we’re looking forward to carrying that momentum into Thursday’s game,” he added.
The Hawks opened the scoring in the first period on a power play when Dan Holland snuck it through the pads of MacLeod on a quick dish from Archie McKinnon.
The Storm would find the equalizer at 2:19 of the first when Addison Banzian beat Hawks goalie Brett Clark. However, 27 seconds later Ryan Edwards would put the Hawks up for good, when he took a Riley Brandt pass and backhanded it over the glove of the Storm goalie to make it 2-1.
Both goalies put on a clinic in the second period as MacLeod and Clark stymied opposition shooters, each stopping 14 shots and making several point-blank saves to keep the game a one-goal margin heading into the third.
“I think we just got to get on him (MacLeod) early and make his life difficult, get some rebounds, some traffic, and really make his life uncomfortable, because he does play well when he’s playing confident,” said Limbert.
Holland would find a way to beat MacLeod early in the third period. The Boston native won a battle for the puck in the Storm’s end, wheeled out from behind the net, faked a pass, turned and wired it off the crossbar to give the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
“The puck got loose, I opened up looking for a pass, the goalie read the pass, he dropped down, so I decided to put it upstairs and it snuck by him,” said Holland.
The 20-year-old forward was a force on the evening, his speed, play-making ability, and fierce determination creating open ice and numerous scoring opportunities for the Hawks. Holland netted his ninth and 10th goals of the playoffs putting him in seventh spot in playoff scoring with 10-11-21.
“He’s been fantastic,” said Limbert. “He’s been an absolute warrior for us and it was an unbelievable performance.”
Yet, it was far from over. After the Nitehawks went up 4-1 on Calvin’s goal, the Storm would mount a comeback. Mitch Friesen would score on a rebound off the back-boards to make it 4-2 at 6:24 of the third. Two minutes later, the former Kamloops Blazer would find the net again, drawing the Storm within one after banging in a loose puck on a goal-mouth scramble.
“It’s kind of human nature to sit back like that and play more of a contained mode but it usually doesn’t work out as we saw,” said Limbert. “They have some big bodies up front, and they’ll make you pay if you give them time and space.”
Calvin would eventually ice it with an empty netter with 21 seconds to play. Despite the close call, the Hawks defence played tight, disciplined hockey, particularly in the third, limiting the Storm to just six shots on net in the period.
Credit has to go to a skilled but often unheralded mix of veterans in McKinnon, Fraser Stang, and Walker Sidoni, and rookie players Sheldon Hubbard, Jeremy Lucchini and Lyle Frank for maintaining their composure and thwarting the big and fast Storm forwards throughout the match.
“Tonight we came out with a little more focus and more committed to our game plan, we got pucks deep, and everybody was working hard,” said Stang. “They got a lot of speed up front . . . they may be a step quicker but you just have to play your angles right, and in our little rink it doesn’t matter too much.”
Beaver Valley outshot Kamloops 40-28 in the game, and went 1-for-6 on the power play.
Game 5 will go in Kamloops on Thursday on the big ice at McArthur Arena. The Storm and Hawks return to the B.V. Arena on Friday for Game 6 at 7:30 p.m.
“For me with the speed, I like playing on big ice, so for them though I think it’s a little harder for them to come into our barn and play on the small ice. I think it benefits us in this rink,” added Holland.