The Beaver Valley Nitehawks repeated as Neil Murdoch division champions after sweeping the Castlegar Rebels from the KIJHL playoffs with a 6-3 victory on Friday at the Castlegar Rec Complex.
The Nitehawks scored three times in the third period to break open a close 3-2 game on their way to their third division title in four years.
“After the second period, it was 3-2, it was a tight game, and I thought we played very well on the offensive side of the puck and generated a lot of chances,” said Nitehawks assistant coach Kevin Limbert. “They came hard up front as well and we got exposed a bit, and gave up some pretty good opportunities, and Drake (Poirier) came up huge for us. The game kind of blew apart a bit in the third period, but through 40 minutes it was a really close and hard fought game.”
After Rebels’ Connor Madsen was sent off for tripping, Ross Armour would tally the winning marker three minutes and 14 seconds into the final frame. Armour took a pass from Andrew Miller and broke down the left wing, drove to the net, and beat goalie Austin Wells short side to give the Nitehawks a 4-2 lead. The victory ended the best-of-seven series in four games straight for B.V. who also beat the Rebels 4-2 the previous night.
The Nitehawks success can be attributed to a line up of young energized rookies and strong veteran leadership that saw 20-year-olds Andrew Miller net three assists and Walker Sidoni scoring once and adding an assist in the match.
“Our veterans have been phenomenal this whole playoff run, even in the Nelson series, and now this series,” said Limbert. “Our veteran guys like (Brayden) Horcoff, Stiffy (Taylor Stafford) whose hurt, Chuck (Jacob Boyczuk), Milsy (Andrew Miller), Sids (Walker Sidoni), our 20-year-old guys have been absolutely huge for us.”
The Nitehawks also received support from their rookie players, as AP Kadrian Klimchuck opened the scoring, batting a centring pass from Jace Weegar out of the air and by Wells at 13:35 of the first period to put the Hawks up 1-0.
“He’s been huge. He plays with a lot of intensity, he’s intelligent, and he just gives us a whole lot of energy, and adds a new dimension to that line.”
Less than two minutes later Castlegar would tie it when Ryan Rosich scored on the power play.
The Nitehawks have taken to inserting defenceman Sidoni as a big, physical body in front of the net on the power play, and the strategy paid off as the Trail native stuffed in the rebound of an Andrew Miller point shot to make it 2-1. Two minutes later, on another Hawks’ man advantage, Weegar would score a similar goal after Horcoff’s high shot from the top of the circle was mishandled by Wells, and dropped to the ice where Weegar fired it in.
Castlegar would cut the lead to one after Aaron Petten finished off a 2-on-0 with Yannis Soukas with a single second left on the clock.
B.V. outshot the Rebels 21-11 in the first, and would keep the 3-2 lead through two periods, before breaking it open in the third.
Armour’s goal put the Hawks up 4-2, and one minute and 42 seconds later Weegar would net his second of the night to put the Hawks up by three. Castlegar got one back, but Mitch Foyle iced it, scoring on a breakaway midway through the period to make the final 6-3 Hawks.
B.V. outshot Castlegar 43-31, going 3-for-7 on the power play, while the Rebels went 1-for-4.
The Nitehawks will get a welcomed rest, as they await the winner of the Eddie Mountain division and will play either Fernie or Kimberley in the Kootenay Conference final.
“In the first two rounds of the playoffs you don’t want to play any extra games you don’t have to, so we’ll rest up, get a bit of R-and-R, and recharge the mental batteries, and any bumps and bruises we’ll get mended,” said Limbert.
The Kimberley Dynamiters took a 3-games-to-2 lead over the Fernie Ghostriders with back-to-back 2-1 victories on Friday and Saturday. Game 6 was played Monday night but the result was unavailable at press time. The winner of the series will play Beaver Valley for the Kootenay Conference title.
“They are both phenomenal squads, they both skate well, and work hard, and you know we’ve seen them this year, and either way it’s going to be a grind.”
The Nitehawks will enjoy home ice advantage if the second seed Dynamiters win the series, otherwise they will travel to Fernie to play the regular season conference champion Ghostriders on Wednesday for the conference final opener.
In the Okanagan-Shushwap Conference the Osoyoos Coyotes took a 3-2 series lead with a 5-2 victory over Summerland Steam Saturday, while Kamloops Storm ended its series 4-games-to-1 with a 4-1 victory over 100-Mile House Friday.