The Beaver Valley Nitehawks survived a third-period comeback from the Nelson Leafs on Tuesday, winning 3-2 in double-overtime to all but secure first place in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Neil Murdoch division.
Reminiscent of his overtime goal in a 2-1 Game 4 playoff victory against the Leafs last March, Hawk veteran and former Leaf Jacob Boyczuk would score in double-overtime to give the Hawks the victory, and put B.V. one win away from clinching the division title.
“It felt pretty amazing,” said Boyczuk. “Almost like deja vu of last year a little bit, but I just kept going, I threw a prayer at the net and it happens I guess.”
Beaver Valley defenceman Walker Sidoni dashed into the Nelson end and dished to Boyczuk who curled behind the net. Unsuccessfully surveying the slot for an outlet, Boyczuk, from an impossible angle, shot the puck, and it bounced off the back leg of Leafs’ goalie Joey Karrer and into the net.
The OT goal ended an intense back-and-forth match up that saw Boyczuk earn 16 minutes in penalties including a second period 10-minute misconduct after standing up for teammate Devin Nemes who was nailed into the boards from behind by the Leafs’ Austin Seaman. The Nelson player received an interference penalty on the play, and Boyczuk, who plays with a decided edge, took umbrage.
“I like to make the boys feel safe out there, so they can play the way they have to, so yea I guess you could say that’s my role,” said Boyczuk.
While the Hawks missed a man-advantage opportunity, assistant coach Kevin Limbert was satisfied with Boyczuk’s effort when he returned to the ice.
“He battled hard, he got a little carried away with his emotions in the second period there and obviously sat in the box for a while, but he came back, hit the re-set button, and came up big for us in overtime.”
The Hawks Sam Swanson opened the scoring at 16:25 of the first period on a nice pass from Kyle Hope as B.V. outshot Nelson 14-5 in the period. However, the Leafs would tie it at 14:07 of the second when Austin Lindsey’s wrist shot from the slot was tipped and knuckled over the glove of Nitehawk goalie Carson Schamerhorn.
The Hawks would re-take the lead, when Mitch Foyle emerged from behind the net and passed down low to Spencer McLean who lifted it short side and top corner on Karrer.
The Hawks had the second period edge on shots 13-9, but the third was all Nelson.
The energized Leafs fired 22 shots at Schamerhorn while the Hawks managed just six. But B.V. held onto the lead until the final 17 seconds, when Aaron Dunlap set up in the slot and one-timed a Darnel St. Pierre pass from behind the net that beat Schamerhorn low stick side to force overtime and set the stage for Boyczuk’s heroics.
“I thought we had a strong start and then we weathered the storm for a bit there,” said Limbert. “Nelson pressed hard and we bent on defence but we didn’t break.”
While it was a good win, the Hawks’ power play struggled going 0-for-7 on the night, and 1-for-20 in the last five games. It became even more evident when B.V. started the first overtime with a 4-on-3 advantage, but didn’t register a shot over the two minutes. Nelson had the best chance, when the Leafs Robson Cramer forced a turnover and broke in on a breakaway, deking right then letting go a quick shot, but Schamerhorn kicked out his right pad and saved the game for the Nitehawks.
“We just have to keep working on it,” said Limbert. “Nelson has a high pressure (penalty) kill, and in a small rink like ours its very, very effective. In bigger rinks like their own they probably won’t put as much pressure on us, but at the same time we have to know what’s coming and be ready to move the puck, tape to tape, really quick.”
The win puts B.V. seven points up on second-place Castlegar that, with just four games remaining, will have to win out and have B.V. lose their remaining five games in order to take top spot in the division.
As it stands the Nitehawks are poised to play Nelson in the first round, but the Leafs can overtake Spokane with four points separating the two teams, and four to play.
Beaver Valley won the season series 4-3-1, but Nelson has outscored the Hawks 28-24, and after last night’s game, where the shots ended 35-35, the teams are well matched.
“Obviously we play each other a lot, and we know what each brings to the table, but most of all there’s a hatred between us, so you know every game is going to be a competitive game, there’s going to be no quit on any puck, and there’s going to be blocking shots, and it’s going to be just a hard-nosed game and that’s usually why they are so close.” added Limbert.
As for the Nitehawks’ Player of the Game, Boyczuk relishes the opportunity to face the division rival.
“I hope we see them the first round, because honestly, I love running them into the ground.”
The Nitehawks play Spokane in B.V. at 7:30 Friday, and will play Castlegar on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Castlegar.