It wasn’t pretty but the Beaver Valley Nitehawks managed to eke out two wins at home against a gutsy and determined Spokane Braves team over the weekend.
After downing the Braves 6-3 Friday, it took a late third period goal to tie the game in the final seconds before winning in overtime Saturday 4-3 in the first round of the KIJHL playoffs.
Two minutes into the overtime period, Nick Perez fed a long pass to Edwards springing the Hawks assistant captain on a two on one with Max Flanagan. Edwards feathered a perfect cross-ice pass and Flanagan made no mistake, banging in the game winner past a sprawling Brandon Amatto.
“I just saw the D-man changing and I went hard to the net, and Eddie’s (Edwards) going to make that pass everytime so I got a little bit lucky,” said Flanagan.
The Nitehawks had difficulty mounting an attack over the first two periods but still managed a 2-0 lead thanks to goals by Josh Peters and Nick Perez.
The Braves outshot the Hawks 41-35 and probably deserved better if not for solid goaltending from Mike Vlanich.
The Braves opened the third pressuring the Hawks and finally solved Vlanich when Matt Thurston shoveled a behind-the-net pass from Braves leading scorer Uriah Machuga over the Hawk tender. The duo of Thurston and Machuga would strike again at 12:03 to tie the game at two before Guisseppe Dippolito converted a pass from Dylan Tappe to put Spokane up 3-2 with over eight minutes remaining.
Spokane threw everything they had at Vlanich, missing an open net then forcing Vlanich to make another great save on a break away. The Hawks’ goalie came up big time and time again despite too many Braves scoring opportunities.
“It was getting scary,” said Vlanich. “But you just got to put it (the goals) behind you. We’ve been down in those situations before and we’ve come back all the time so you keep battling and hope you get a bounce your way in the end.”
And indeed they did. The Hawks would finally tie the game when Derek Lashuk’s point shot was blocked by a Spokane defenceman and bounced onto the stick of Edwards who rifled it into the open net with 47 seconds remaining.
“I don’t think they deserved to win,” said Spokane coach Mike Bay. “I think we outworked them . . . I’m just really proud of my guys, at least we know now that we can play with them too.”
The Hawks were without forwards Dallas Calvin (charley horse) and Justin Niminiken (foot injury), two players that provide much needed scoring punch and who should be back in the lineup for the next game.
“We weren’t very good for 55 minutes,” said Nitehawks coach Terry Jones. “We just felt that we got outworked, for whatever reason we felt they out-skated us and out-battled us for most of the game. We just didn’t have our competitive level. We’re just lucky our goalie came up big for us – he was our best player.”
Scott Davidson made a welcome return to the lineup, adding an assist in each of the two wins.