KIJHL: Hawks drop three on rough road

After going undefeated in nine straight games, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks hit a bump in the road on Sunday.

After going undefeated in nine straight games, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks hit a bump in the road losing their third game in a row on the road on Sunday.

Following a gruelling stretch of five-games-in-six days, the Nitehawks fell to their bitter division rivals Castlegar Rebels 7-4 on Sunday. The defeat comes hard on the heels of a 4-2 loss to the league-leading Kimberley Dynamiters Saturday and a 7-4 New Years Eve setback to the Nelson Leafs on Thursday that broke B.V.’s unbeaten stretch dating back to November. The Hawks beat the Leafs 6-5 the night before and played to a 1-1 draw with the Rebels last Tuesday.

“It was a busy stretch of games,” said Nitehawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “It might have been a little too much for our guys … and throwing the Kimberley game in there was tough. But I don’t want to make a lot of excuses, I just don’t think we played very well the last three games.”

Despite the setbacks, the 25-8-2-2 Hawks maintain top spot in the Neil Murdoch division, with the Rebels moving to within eight points of B.V. with three games in hand, after trailing by 12 points last week.

The Rebels Chris Brese scored the winning goal with seven seconds remaining in the second period to give Castlegar a 5-3 lead and their first win over B.V. in the 2015-16 season.

“I thought our first and third periods in Castlegar were as good as hockey as we played, so just our second period wasn’t very good,” said Jones. “I think our goaltending wasn’t where it needs to be.

“We haven’t played 60 minutes in a while, so that’s what counts for the results. There’s lots of good hockey at times but just not the full 60 minutes.”

Castlegar opened the scoring at 15:05 when defenceman Carson Wornig netted his first goal of the campaign beating Hawks netminder Drake Poirier with a hard blast from the point. Blake Sidoni tied it with 8:36 left on a setup from Evan Gorman and Jaxon Joseph, as the Hawks outshot the Rebels 17-6 in the period, but another strong game from Logan Sawka stymied Nitehawk shooters time and again.

Castlegar turned it on in the second period rippling the twine four times with Tayden Woods and Ed Lindsey putting the Rebels up 3-1. The Hawks Tyler Ghiradosi cut the lead to one on the power play at 10:29 on a pretty pass from Braden Fuller, who then tied it 3-3 just 76 seconds later on another power play goal, this time converting a Tyler Hartman and Ghiradosi passing play.

But Nick Headrick gave the Rebels the lead for good scoring with 2:38 to go in the middle frame for a 4-3 lead, and Brese made it 5-3 before the period was out, as the Rebels outshot the Hawks 16-9 in the period.

The Nitehawks regrouped in the third firing 18 shots at the Rebel net. Fuller scored his second of the night to make it 5-4, but two goals from Rebels forward Mike Bhatoa in the final three minutes stifled any chance of a Hawks comeback.

“I thought Sawka was great especially when he had to be,” said Jones. “But there’s discipline problems and lots of little things, like they scored a goal because guys stay out there too long on a shift at the end of the second period. There’s just little things that might be because your mentally tired.”

An emerging bright spot for the Nitehawks is Tyler Ghiradosi, who at 16 years of age contributed with six points over the past five games, and plays a physically dominating style of hockey, despite his youth.

The Hawks outshot Castlegar 44-28 in the game, and went 3-for-6 on the power play, while Castlegar was 0-for-2.

“We have to be better in some areas. I really thought our 5-on-5 play especially in our own end, we were victimized by some very poor defensive play so we have to get better at that for sure.”

The Nitehawks play there next game on Saturday when they host the Nelson Leafs at 7:30 p.m. at the Beaver Valley Arena.

“The season gets shorter from here on in,” said Jones. “You have to start using your time to get better, just focus on the little things – d-men walking the line, getting pucks through to the net – you know, we’ll get there.”