The KIJHL championship final returns to Fruitvale tonight for Game 6 between the Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Kamloops Storm.
The teams played in Kamloops last night but the final score was unavailable at press time. Regardless, the Hawks will look to win tonight either to claim the KIJHL title or send the series to a Game 7 on Sunday in Kamloops.
The Nitehawks spoiled the Storm’s perfect 7-0 road record on Tuesday, beating the Storm in Game 4, 5-3, to tie the series, 2-2, and make the final a best-of-three.
“Any team in their right minds, or if they said at the beginning of the season, ‘You’re going to have a best-of-three and you’re going to have home-ice advantage,’ any team would take it,” Storm coach Ed Patterson told Kamloops This Week on Wednesday. “It’s awesome. I love it.”
It has been a grueling series with fierce and physical play compounded by a long seven-hour road trip, but the teams have split games in each other’s rinks, making home-ice advantage apparently moot.
“They have a good hockey club,” said Hawks coach Terry Jones. “We expected this to be a difficult series. We have a lot of respect for how hard they work and how they play and how physical they are.”
While both teams have been on the receiving end of big and sometimes questionable hits, at this stage of the playoffs the coaches expect their players to be bruised and a bit battered.
“We’re banged up and guys are gutting it out, but that’s what playoffs do to you, wearing things down, but guys are sucking it up and playing through,” said Jones. “It’s playoffs everyone’s banged up a little bit.”
“We talk about it all the time – in hockey you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself or feel beat up. You have to put on a brave mindset.
“Even if you are banged up and tired, you lie to yourself. You tell your brain you’re 100 per cent and you can’t wait to get on the ice and you compete your butt off.”
Game 6 between the Nitehawks and Storm goes tonight at the Hawks Nest at 7:30 p.m.