KIJHL: Nitehawks soar to Game 3 win in Neil Murdoch Division playofs

The Beaver Valley Nitehawks took back control of their Neil Murdoch division semi-final playoff series against the Nelson Leafs on Monday.

The Beaver Valley Nitehawks took back control of their Neil Murdoch division semi-final playoff series against the Nelson Leafs with a 5-2 victory in Game 3 in Nelson on Monday.

The Hawks’ scored five third-period goals including two from Taylor Stafford to overcome a 1-0 deficit and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven division series.

After losing Game 2 in overtime 5-4, assistant coach Kevin Limbert was concerned with undisciplined penalties, as Jace Weegar sits out with a three-game suspension, and Mitch Foyle was ejected early in the second period for a blow to the head in the OT loss.

“Definitely, we needed to address some disciplinary issues, because we did get a little bit off our game plan.”

In Game 3 it was Nelson’s turn to lose its cool, as the Hawks kept their penalty time to a minimum, killing four penalties and stepping up the power play and going 3-for-7 including netting the winning goal by Andrew Miller at 14:54 of the final frame.

Leafs’ defenceman Patrick Croome received a penalty for high-sticking and the Leafs a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct to give the Hawks a 5-on-3 advantage at 15:37 of the third period.

The Hawks set up in the Nelson zone, and Tyler Hartman would work the puck to Miller, who ripped a shot by Nelson goalie AP Jason Malhiot to put the Hawks up 3-1.

“We played a good game until we got into penalty trouble,” Nelson Leafs coach Dave McLellan told the Nelson Star.  “I don’t think the game was very well officiated. It’s a function of this level, but it changes the tide of the game.”

Nelson opened the scoring when Dylan Williamson beat Hawks goalie Carson Schamerhorn at 7:05 of a tentative first period that saw Nelson outshoot the Hawks 7 to 5.

The Leafs continued to press in the second period blasting 16 shots at Schamerhorn, but the Kelowna native made several key saves to keep the Hawks in it.

The Nitehawks killed off a penalty to start the third, and Spencer McLean would finish a Ross Armour setup to tie it 24 seconds after the penalty expired.

Nitehawks AP Kadrian Klimchuk would then send a perfect pass to Stafford who put it by Malhiot to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead at 16:23. A dozen seconds after Miller made it 3-1, Mitch Foyle would bang in a loose puck on a goal-mouth scramble to put the Hawks up by three.

Nelson’s Brendan Smith would cut the lead to 4-2 three minutes later but Michael Crawford would take a double-minor penalty for roughing and cross checking at 2:12, giving Stafford the opportunity to round out the scoring with his second of the night.

The Hawks struggled with their power play in Game 2 going 0-for-6 so the turn around on Monday, while for the most part maintaining their cool in a very heated match up, was a positive step for B.V. For Nelson, however, the third period penalty parade proved their downfall particularly with an already short bench, as B.V. Outshot the Leafs in the third 15-8.

“Nobody was outstanding tonight,” said McLellan. “We worked hard and we could’ve won, but we came up short.”

The Hawks Brayden Horcoff and Armour had two assists each, while McLean scored once and added a helper. Nelson outshot the Nitehawks on the night 31-29.

Game 4 went Tuesday night at the Nelson Rec Complex but scores were unavailable at press time. Game 5 goes in Beaver Valley on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

In the other Neil Murdoch division semifinal, the Castlegar Rebels defeated Spokane Braves 2-1, and take the series lead by the same margin.