The Beaver Valley Nitehawks are back in action at home tonight against the Castlegar Rebels, as they get set for a five games in six days run.
The Neil Murdoch division leading Nitehawks play a Rebels team looking to bounce back from a 5-2 loss to Grand Forks Dec. 19 and a 7-2 drubbing by the Hawks in Castlegar on Dec. 12 that dropped the Rebels eight points below B.V. in the standings. The Hawks then face Nelson in a home-and-home Wednesday and Thursday before hitting the road to face the number-one team in the league in the Kimberley Dynamiters on Saturday and a game in Castlegar Sunday.
“We always play Castlegar a little different than everybody else, but other than that we play to win, especially in our own division, we have to beat those teams,” said Hawks assistant coach Bill Birks.
The four games against division teams are critical but the Dynamiters game will be a measure of how Beaver Valley matches up against the defending KIJHL champions. It is their first meeting since last March when Kimberley beat the Nitehawks in five games of a best-of-seven playoff for the KIJHL’s Kootenay Conference championship.
But first the Nitehawks will have to keep their seven game win streak alive when they face the Rebels tonight. Castlegar, at 21-10-1-0, owns one of the toughest and quickest defences in the league, led by 20-year-old Nick Headrick, who is second in scoring on the Rebels with 10 goals and 38 points. Six-foot-three inch Tyson Wornig anchors their back end along with a pair of six-foot-two, 18-year-old defencemen Anthony Oliverio and Vince Bitonti. Among them, they have over 170 minutes in penalties. The Rebels also sport the second best goals-against in the KIJHL this season allowing 74 goals in 32 games, with Joseph McLeod carrying most of the work. The 18-year-old Kelowna native has a 2.25 goals against and a .934 save percentage with 13 wins in 21 starts.
Tayden Woods, 18, leads the Rebel attack scoring 20 goals and 19 assists in 32 games, while Chris Breese and Mike Bhatoa have chipped in with 34 and 33 points respectively. Aside from veteran Darren Medeiros with 25 points, the Rebels offence falls off dramatically after that with defenceman Darren Petten the next highest scorer with 14 points.
The Hawks-Rebels rivalry has been a bitter yet highly entertaining one over the years and it should be no different tonight. The fact the two teams loathe each other only adds to the drama and intensity of the matches between the top two teams in the Murdoch division.
“It (the rivalry) goes years back into the playoffs,” said Birks. “It’s been a 1-2 rivalry for years . . . so you definitely get up for those.”
Braden Fuller has returned to form since missing action in November, netting 15 points in his last 10 games, and is currently second in team scoring with 13 goals and 36 points. The Hawks have also solidified their goaltending tandem. With the addition of Tallon Kramer, and the return of Drake Poirier to good health, the Nitehawks have allowed just 12 goals in seven games for a miniscule 1.74 goals against and a combined 94.61 save percentage.