While the Beaver Valley Nitehawks prepare to take on the Nelson Maple Leafs in the first round of the Neil Murdoch division playoffs in Beaver Valley tonight, the team took a little time out on Sunday to award its top players, and recognize the hard work of volunteers.
The Nitehawks hope the Leafs continue their downward spiral, as the team has lost its last six games in a row, including a sweep at the hands of KIJHL regular-season champs the Castlegar Rebels.
The losses combined with a pair of Nitehawk wins against Spokane lifted the Hawks into second place and home-ice advantage in the first round.
“Home ice is always big, you get your crowd behind you, and the guys just feel more comfortable,” said assistant coach Jeremy Cominotto. “They’ve got a good team, and we’re going to have to be ready and prepared, and when that puck drops we’ve got to hit them with everything we’ve got.”
Nelson coach Frank Maida was named the Neil Murdoch Coach of the Year last week for an impressive three-point increase from last year’s points total, and for finishing in third position. Granted the team faced a few trials with the loss of Colton McCarthy to the WHL and injury to Mathew Naka, but are also winless in February and just 7-9 since Jan. 1, while B.V. is 10-4-1 and Castlegar 14-2.
“‘We’re still going to have to play well,” said Cominotto. “I mean Nelson is no slouch, they were in first place for the majority of the season and we’ve had some late success against them which gives us a little more confidence.”
Meanwhile at the Nitehawks banquet at the Riverbelle Sunday, coaches handed out awards to recognize some great performances this season.
Forward Dallas Calvin received Most Valuable Player award as well as the team’s Top Scorer in amassing 31 goals and 43 assists in just 40 games this season. Dan Holland took home Top Forward honours for his great play after joining the Hawks in December, and Fraser Stang received the Hitman award for his formidable body checks.
The Top Defenceman nod went to veteran Archie McKinnon while fellow d-man Walker Sidoni received Most Improved, and Arie Postmus Most Sportsmanlike. The teams Top Rookie was shared by Connor Brown-Maloski and Kurt Black, Most Inspirational went to Luke Reimer, goaltender Zach Perehudoff and Jordan Magico were honoured as the Most Dedicated Players, and Most Popular went to the inimitable Michael Bell.
The Tom Meakes Award for special contribution to the team went to both Sheldon Collins and John Coutts for their impressive and insightful play-by-play, while Taylor Stafford took home the Pat Corrado award, and Nick Perez and Derek Lashuk both received the Award of Merit.
The puck drops against the Leafs at 7:30 p.m. at the Beaver Valley Arena tonight and Saturday night.