It was only a matter of time before the Beaver Valley Nitehawks’ offence would find a crack and break through the Castlegar Rebels’ last line of defence.
On Tuesday night at the Beaver Valley Arena Braydon Horcoff nettted a hat trick to lead the Hawks to a 6-2 victory and a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven matchup with the Rebels.
Following a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory on Monday, in which Rebel goalie Patrick Zubick almost single handedly stole the game for the Rebels, making 55 saves; the Hawks would score five times in Game 2 on the Castlegar native before chasing him from the net in favour of Austin Wells.
“We dominated parts of the game, but there were still times where Castlegar pressed hard and we broke down and Schamy (goalie Carson Schamerhorn) had to come up big for us, so there’s still some holes in our game particularly on the d-zone side, but we worked hard and they battled hard too,” said Nitehawk assistant coach Kevin Limbert.
The Nitehawks took a 3-0 lead into the third period, after Spencer McLean scored what proved to be the winner with 39 seconds remaining in the middle frame. McLean gathered a pass from Ross Armour and snapped a shot from the top of the circle that deflected off a Rebels defenceman and rainbowed into the top corner of the net.
The Hawks again came out tentative in the first with the Rebels outshooting B.V. 11-9 . But Horcoff’s first goal would give the Nitehawks the lead, when Sam Swanson circled behind the net and dished to the Prince Rupert native, who one timed it by the Rebel goalie with four minutes to play in the first period.
Kyle Hope would make it 2-0 at 12:47 of the second, after David Nemes drove hard to the front of the net, drawing both defencemen, and leaving Hope alone in front to fire home the rebound. McLean would make it 3-0 late, and Schamerhorn held the fort, coming up big on a number of occasions to maintain the shutout with the shots in favour of the Hawks 24-23 after two.
The Nitehawks played discipline hockey, giving up no power plays, and outskated a Rebels team whose energy waned as the game wore on.
“We were rolling four lines and I don’t think they were rolling four lines as well, I think they were playing a bit of a shorter bench, and over the course of the game we kept our pace, and their’s might have dipped a little bit as a result of fatigue,” said Limbert.
Jeremy McNeil got the Rebels within two, just 2:13 into the final frame, snapping a shot from the hash marks by Schamerhorn to make it 3-1. But two minutes later, Horcoff would restore the two goal lead, taking a Swanson pass and firing it from the right dot, low blocker side on Zubick to make it 4-1.
The 20-year-old would complete the hat trick at 14:21 on the power play, picking up the rebound off a Jacob Boyczuk shot and lifting it top corner to make it 5-1 and chase the Rebel goaltender from the net.
“He (Horcoff) had a heck of a game, he was moving his feet, and doing a lot of good things today,” said Limbert. “He’s a big strong kid and when he gets it in his mind to go to the net, that’s going to happen.”
The hat trick was a milestone for Horcoff, netting his first three-goal game in four years of junior hockey and doing so against his former team, the Castlegar Rebels where he played from 2011-13.
“I haven’t had one before, not in junior ,” said Horcoff. “It feels good especially against Castlegar . . . I haven’t been like a huge goal scorer in my career, but I just like being on the ice when my line scores and feel like I’m contributing to the wins.”
Aaron Petten would make it 5-2 midway through the period, and David Nemes would ice it on a nice setup from Hope and Boyczuk, his third assist on the night, with 4:42 remaining in regulation.
“I didn’t think we played our best possible game yesterday but I think tonight we really turned it up a notch and showed we are a more competitive team, and it’s a good feeling,” said Horcoff.
The Nitehawks played keep-away for much of the third period, controlling the play with speed and pin-point passing. The Hawks outshot the Rebels 16-9 in the third, and 40-32 in the game, with Horcoff receiving the star of the game for the Hawks and Petten for the Rebels. Horcoff had 11 goals and 37 points in the regular season, and has three goals and four assists in seven post-season games this year.
“I think I’m here to play physical personally,” said Horcoff. “But our identity as a team isn’t super skilled, flashy play, it’s put your nose to the ground and work until you have the win, and I think if we do that every night we will win.”
The Murdoch division final series now moves to Castlegar for Game 3 and 4 with the puck drop tonight at 7 p.m. and Friday scheduled for 5 p.m. due to the Selkirk College Saints’ opening playoff game at 8 p.m. at the Castlegar Rec Complex.