Trying to figure out which teams will show up on a given night has become as hard as predicting who will survive the playoff battle between the Nelson Leafs and Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
The two teams met in Game 5 of their Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Murdoch Division semifinal last night in Fruitvale.
And unlike their last meeting in Nelson, where the Leafs rolled to a 9-1 win on Saturday, this time it would be the Hawks jumping out to an early lead that would carry them to a 6-3 victory.
The win gave the Nitehawks a 3-2 series lead and put them one victory away from eliminating the Leafs in the unpredictable series.
Game 6 goes tonight in Nelson with Game 7, if necessary, scheduled for Wednesday in Fruitvale.
Ryon Sookro, who was presented with the KIJHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Award prior to the game, scored three times and finished the game with four points as did linemate Colton Donselaar.
Sookro scored twice in the first period, including the game’s first goal just 17 seconds after the opening faceoff, as the Nitehawks jumped out to a 4-1 lead.
Marcus Dahl had Nelson’s lone goal of the period as penalties continued to handcuff the Leafs’ chances.
Arie Postmus made it 2-1 for the Hawks at the midway mark and Dan Bishop potted his sixth goal of the series, the most on either team, just as a power play ended to make it 3-1 Beaver Valley.
Another minor penalty to Nelson late in the period set the stage for Sookro’s second goal putting the Hawks up 4-1 after 20 minutes
Down by three goals, Nelson showed the same resiliency that got them back in the series on home ice as Colton Malmsten scored at the outset of the second period to cut the deficit to 4-2.
Another Nelson penalty proved to be a blessing for the Leafs as Dustin Johnson fed the puck to Gavin Currie who finished the two-on-one break for the shorthanded marker and suddenly Nelson was one goal from knotting the game.
However, before that penalty expired Sookro potted his third of the night firing the puck through a crowd and past Nelson goalie Marcus Beesley with nine minutes gone in the middle frame.
The Nitehawks capped off the period with a beautiful passing play from Sookro to Chris Derochie to Donselaar who buried it in the back of the Nelson net to regain the three-goal lead with 85 seconds left in the period.
The third period saw no scoring, a bit of rough stuff and plenty of pondering as to how the teams will perform when the series resumes tonight in Nelson.
Nitehawks goaltender Mike Vlanich made 30 saves for the win while Beesley also stopped 30.
Prior to the game the Beaver Valley crowd cheered Montrose native Luke Bertolucci who returned from Halifax on Sunday with a Canada Winter Games gold medal as a member of Team B.C.’s male hockey team.