The Beaver Valley Nitehawks seven game winning streak came to an end on Saturday at the Hawks’ Nest, as their KIJHL Neil Murdoch division rival Spokane Braves’ skated to a gutsy 2-1 win.
The Nitehawks squashed the Nelson Leafs 7-3 on Friday to extend its league-leading record to 7-0-0, but the Hawks’ shooters couldn’t solve Spokane rookie goalie Blake Norman the next night. The 17-year-old netminder earned his first win of the season, blocking 44 shots to backstop the Braves to just their second victory.
“I give full marks to Spokane they competed very hard tonight and their goalie played really well,” said Hawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “Your just disappointed when you don’t play a full 60 minutes. I just thought we had too many passengers tonight.”
Braves forward Paxton Malone got the Braves on the board, scoring on a power play with 1:35 remaining in the first period.
Beaver Valley outshot the Braves 12-8 in the first and would come out even more determined in the second period, peppering the Spokane goalie with 19 shots but failing to score.
However unjustly, a lone goal by Braves leading scorer Kurt Redding, put the Braves up 2-0 heading into the third.
“I thought we were gutty,” said Braves coach Garry Redding. “First couple periods I thought we competed pretty well . . . Beaver Valley is an excellent hockey team and we knew they’d throw everything at us. A little puck-luck here and there but we’ll take it.”
The Hawks continued to control the play in the final frame, and had a prime opportunity to draw within one after Braves’ forward Lance Noomen took a roughing penalty to start the third period. But Norman was stellar, his best save coming on a redirection in front of the net where the 17-year-old rookie kicked out his right pad and stopped the puck on the goal line to preserve the two-goal lead.
The Hawks finally beat Norman when Weegar sent a centring pass from behind the Spokane net to Sam Swanson in the slot, and the Fruitvale native made no mistake wiring it blocker side on the Braves goalie to make it 2-1 with 5:37 remaining in regulation.
Swanson was a Hawks standout on the night, as his relentless forecheck and intensity caused a number of turnovers and scoring ops for B.V. A relentless attack, however, was marked by missed nets or thwarted by Norman, as B.V. outshot the Braves 14-6 in the third.
“Too many bad habits surfaced when adversity got to us, and those are the things we have to address,” said Jones. “When you are winning you tend to overlook those things, so this magnified some of the bad habits and we have to correct them and that’s all there is to it.”
A late Hawks penalty stalled the Hawks momentum, and Spokane held on for the victory. While only their second win, the Braves team has been competitive in every game this season, with three of its eight losses coming in overtime.
B.V. Outshot Spokane 45-23, with the Braves going 1-for-4 on the power play, while B.V. went 0-for-2. Swanson and Norman were named players of the game.
“If we would have scored on half our good chances we would have won by three or four goals,” said Jones. “We were lackadaisical the whole night, and that’s why we lost. Full marks to Spokane but the guys in Beaver Valley didn’t play their best tonight.”