However the rest of the season plays out, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks made a statement in its final regular season match up against the Grand Forks Border Bruins Tuesday night.
The Hawks skated to a gutsy 5-3 victory over the Border Bruins at the Hawks Nest thanks to a three-point night from Joel Smyth and a 40-save performance from Connor Stojan.
With the win, the Nitehawks pull to within two points of the Murdoch Division leading Border Bruins and into second place with just two games to play in the regular season.
“I think we’ve been playing some pretty good hockey over the last seven or eight games,” said Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones. “We’ve had some injuries, and guys have had to step up and play some more minutes, but I think it really has solidified our team, guys have bought into what we have to do.
“It’s nice to see us get on the score sheet, we’ve struggled to score so it’s nice to break that trend.”
Boris Hristov scored the game winner with 45 seconds to play in the second period. The Calgary product made a nice move around the defenceman and drove to the net. His shot was stopped by Border Bruins goalie Ethan Shebansky, but Hristov shoveled in the rebound for a 4-2 lead.
With the win, the Nitehawks take the season series against the Border Bruins with five wins and three losses, with two of those coming in overtime and a shootout.
“I loved our effort, I thought guys played hard all the way through, and our forecheck was solid,” said Jones. “At times we were a little undisciplined, but overall I’m happy with where we’re at and it’s always nice to win.”
Joel Smyth scored twice in the opening period to give the Hawks a 2-0 lead. The Border Bruins Spencer Horning beat Beaver Valley starter Connor Stojan to cut the lead to one just 25 seconds into the middle frame, but Smyth sent Nathan Dominici in all alone and the Trail minor hockey product beat Shebansky over the glove for a 3-1 lead at 17:18.
Cody Quinney jumped on a carom off the back boards and slipped it past Stojan to make it 3-2 as both teams battled back and forth exchanging chances. Shebansky came up with the highlight reel stop of the night, making a sprawling glove save off a Nitehawks’ look at an open net to keep it close as B.V. outshot the Bruins 23-18 in the period.
With Grand Forks pressing in the third, the Nitehawks goalie took a penalty for slashing, giving the Bruins an extra man advantage. However, Beaver Valley captain Gavin Tritt stripped the Grand Forks defenceman of the puck in his own end, and fired a quick shot past the surprised Bruins goalie for a 5-2 lead.
While Beaver Valley has scored an impressive seven shorthanded goals this season, they have struggled mightily on the power play, something that Jones hopes will be corrected.
“We’ve been working on our power play a lot, so I’m hoping we get hot at the right time heading into the playoffs.”
Grand Forks’ Karsten Gorrill added a late goal but the Nitehawks locked it down the rest of the way for the 5-3 victory.
Beaver Valley outshot Grand Forks 54-43, and went 0-for-2 on the power play and 3-for-3 on the penalty kill.
B.V. has a remote chance to finish in first by winning their final two games, but will need Grand Forks to lose its remaining two games as well. Regardless of who the Nitehawks face in the playoff, Jones knows it’s going to be a challenge.
“Whatever team we play, it’s going to be hard, and we have to worry about what we do, not what anybody else does.”
Nitehawks will face off against the Castlegar Rebels in Castlegar on Friday at 7 p.m., and host the Nelson Leafs for the final regular season game on Saturday at the B.V. Arena with the puck drop at 7 p.m.
Read: Extra time heroics leads Nitehawks to wins over division leaders