The Beaver Valley Nitehawks came out flying against the Castlegar Rebels on Wednesday night at the Castlegar Rec Complex as they soared to a 9-3 victory over their Interior division rivals.
The Nitehawks jumped out to a 4-0 first period lead before the Rebels could reply, but by that time Castlegar starting goalie Austin Wells had been pulled, and the rout was well on its way.
“It was one of our best (periods of hockey) for sure, but I think we had a well-rounded game the whole night,” said Nitehawks assistant coach Jim Ingram.
Hawks forward Jace Weegar scored what proved to be the winning goal with 3:35 to play in the first period, notching his first of two on the night. Allan Pruss head-manned the puck to brother Michael who broke in with Weegar on a 2-on-1. The Hawk forward drew the defenceman then feathered a perfect pass to Weegar who fired it into the open side on Rebel goalie Patrick Zubick to make it 4-0.
The line of Weegar and the Pruss twins was exceptional in the game, netting eight points, while playing with high-energy, speed, and consistently forcing turnovers, the result of a devastating forecheck.
“They think the game a lot alike, they have a really strong work ethic, and get after it,” said Ingram. “The line hasn’t been together a whole lot but at the same time the chemistry has been almost immediate, so if that’s the way they’re going to play, it’s going to be a fun line to watch.”
According to Weegar, the line has a history all its own, a familiarity with each other’s play from a former team.
“A while back, about three years ago, we played together in midget, and we got separated and then we all ended up coming back to the same team so we’ve built up quite a bit of chemistry over the years, and end up playing well together,” said Weegar.
The Nitehawks now trail second-place Castlegar in the Neil Murdoch standings by just three points with three games in hand.
In Wednesday’s match up, it didn’t take long for the Hawks to get going with Kyle Hope scoring on a Tyler Hartman and Sam Swanson setup 2:54 into the first period.
Ross Armour made it 2-0 when he banged in a Spencer McLean rebound at 15:05 on a power play, and Mitch Foyle would net a short-handed marker when he streaked down the right side, broke across the crease and lifted a backhand over the glove of Wells to make it 3-0 at 5:35 of the first.
Weegar would score exactly two minutes later, and Bryan Lubin would finally get Castlegar on the board shoveling in a goal-line scramble with 32 seconds to play to make it 4-1 Hawks at the end of one.
“I think everyone just played really well together and there was definitely no individual effort,” said Weegar. “We just played as a team, and everyone was just really positive on the bench and that was the main thing.”
The physical first period was highlighted by an Andrew Miller fight, who obliged Dawson Haines in a lively battle, after Haines attacked the Hawk defenceman. Both would be ejected from the game setting the stage for a classic Hawks-Rebel battle in the second and third.
The Nitehawks dominated the first frame outshooting the Rebels 15-8, but the second-period would see the shots even up, 13-13, as the Hawks were shorthanded for almost half the period.
“The penalties got a bit out of hand there, so that took away from our game, but I liked how we responded, and although we took a lot of penalties, we seem to not let that bother us that much or take anything away from our game,” said Ingram.
Incredibly, the Nitehawks, one of the league’s least penalized teams, would be shorthanded nine times while Castlegar, the second most penalized team, were on the penalty kill just twice in the match. Despite the anomaly, Hawk goalie Drake Poirier came up big, making a number of sensational saves in the second period to preserve the lead, and it would be B.V. that would score the only goal of the period when Michael Pruss sent a perfect pass to brother Allan who one-timed it past Zubick.
Up 5-1, the Nitehawks continued to pressure in the the third. Weegar would get his 10th of the season on another Pruss-Pruss set up, and Mitch Foyle counted his second of the game taking an Armour pass and wiring it from the right face-off dot under the crossbar.
Defenceman Walker Sidoni would put the Hawks up 8-1, walking out of the corner and backhanding it by Zubick, before Jacob Boyczuk would round out the scoring for the Hawks on a power play goal at 9:36 of the final frame.
Lubin added the Rebels lone power play goal 71 seconds later, and Lindan Calliou would finish it with 47 seconds left on the clock to make it 9-3.
The Hawks outshot Castlegar 40 to 35 and were 2-for-2 on the power play while the Rebels went 1-for-9.
Both Allan and Michael Pruss counted three points on the night, with Allan netting a goal and two assists and Michael three helpers, while Foyle had two goals and an assist, and Hartman, Armour, Reid Anderson, Weegar, Hope, and Sidoni pitched in with two points apiece.
“It’s nice when you can spread things out like that, the penalty kill, power play, even strength, everybody chucked something into the hat tonight,” said Ingram. “This was a big game for us and a big game for them, and we wanted to come in here and make a statement.”