The Beaver Valley Nitehawks bounced back in a big way on Saturday (Mar. 4), with a 4-1 win over the Creston Valley Thundercats.
Two goals from Ollie Clement, 35 saves from Conner Stojan and a well executed game-plan in Game 2 earned the Nitehawks a split with their East Kootenay rival.
The Nitehawks fell 4-3 in Game 1 of the Neil Murdoch Division Final at the Hawks Nest on Friday, despite firing 52-shots at the Creston goal.
“I thought it was an unfortunate loss on Friday, but we learned a lot,” said Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones. “Some real bad bounces that went our way.
“I thought Nathan (Presley) played unbelievable for us and gave us a chance to win. We were just chasing the game a little bit, so tonight I thought Connor (Stojan) really settled us in net, and getting off to an early lead really settled our team, so yes it is a big win for us.”
Clement scored the game-winning goal on the power play, taking a perfect backdoor pass from Nathan Dominici and one-timing it past Thundercat goalie Parker Forrest for a 2-0 lead at 9:29 of the first period.
“We like to work it down low and open up high,” said Clement. “And I just saw an opening, and put it post and in far side.”
The 17-year-old Rossland product leads the Hawks in playoff scoring with five goals and 13 points in eight games. He brought his game to another level after contributing 21 points in 42 games in the regular season.
“We’re getting scoring from a lot of different players, and Ollie made some big plays tonight,” said Jones. “He kind of had an off game last night, so I thought he really atoned for the game last night, and scored some great goals for us.”
Creston came out strong on Saturday outshooting B.V. 19-13 in the first period, but Montrose native Cooper Ross put the Nitehawks up 1-0, firing a shot from behind the goal line that went off Forrest and in for a 1-0 lead at 10:34.
After Thundercat Zach Augot was sent off for interference, Clement scored his second of the night, 1:23 into the middle frame. Forrest stopped a shot from Kaleb Percival, and as the rebound deflected high in the air, Clement batted the puck down onto his stick and into the net for a 3-0 lead.
Creston cut the lead to two on the power play with 6:05 to play, when Nikolai Morrison fired a Luke Chakrabarti pass over the glove of Stojan to make it 3-1.
Beaver Valley’s Boris Hristov notched his sixth of the playoff on a great passing play from Timothy Jozsa. A Calgary product, Jozsa deftly stickhandled through traffic in front of the Creston net before dishing off to Hristov at the post for a 4-1 lead with 1:04 remaining in the second period.
The Thundercats finished fifth in the Eddie Mountain Division, and crossed over to the Neil Murdoch Division due to the absence of the Spokane Braves, and by virtue of their better record than the Castlegar Rebels. Creston took out the Neil Murdoch regular season champs Grand Forks Border Bruins in five games in the first round, before facing the Nitehawks.
“I feel like we had a lot more heart tonight,” said Clement. “I think we came into yesterday’s game a bit lackadaisical, thinking it might be a bit easy, but they showed us that they are not a pushover team at all.”
The Nitehawks locked down the Thundercats in the third period with a tight-checking defence and suffocating forecheck that allowed Creston just five shots on goal, and frustrated top forwards Chakrabarti and Blake Anderson.
“They have a good team, but those two guys are really dangerous, but we just tried to limit their time and space and not let them wind up,” said Jones. “I think we could be a little more disciplined, and that is something we will have to shore up in Creston on Tuesday.”
Creston had their best chance on the power play with less than seven minutes remaining, but B.V.’s special teams stepped up once again, and Stojan came up big when he had to.
The Nitehawks outshot Creston 42-36 and went 3-for-5 on the power play and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill.
Clement was given the player of the game for his hard work and two-goal effort in Game 2.
“It was obviously really good to get a win under our belt, because it’s hard coming back down two,” said Clement. “I think we battled hard tonight and just made the plays that needed to happen.”
In Friday’s match, Beaver Valley carried the play, outshooting the Thundercats 52-37, but the bounces went Creston’s way in a 4-3 Game 1 victory.
A goal by Hassen Himour bounced off the stanchion, past a bewildered Presley, and into the empty net for a 1-0 lead. After Tyson Tokarz scored for B.V., Blake Anderson gave Creston a 2-1 lead 31 seconds later.
Ethan Smyth tied it 8:46 into the second period, but Chakrabarti restored the one goal lead, and Anderson tallied the game winner 63 seconds into the third period. Ethan Grishin scored with six minutes remaining to cut the lead to one, as the Nitehawks fired 19 shots at the Creston goal in the final frame.
“I don’t think there is a ton of advantage to home ice in the playoffs, but we just have to go play our game and if we stay disciplined, I like our chances, I like our depth, and we have to keep improving game after game,” added Jones.
The Nitehawks suffered a tough loss in Beau Menegre, who was hit from behind by Creston’s Taylor Schmideder. Menegre had missed the first round of the playoffs due to injury, and will likely not be in the line up on Tuesday. Gavin Tritt missed Saturday’s game with a lower body injury but is day-to-day.
In the Eddie Mountain Division Final, the Fernie Ghostriders took a 2-0 series lead after beating the Dynamiters at home 4-0 and 5-3 on the weekend.
Games 3 and 4 for the Nitehawks will go at Johnny Bucyk Memorial Arena in Creston on Tuesday and Wednesday with the puck drop at 8:30 p.m. Pacific Time.
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Creston Valley Thunder CatsJunior B HockeyKIJHL