What the Beaver Valley Nitehawks lacked in finish around the net, they made up for in toughness and grit as they skated to a 3-1 victory over the Castlegar Rebels in the semifinals of the Neil Murdoch division playoffs.
The Nitehawk’s Taylor Stafford would net the winner at 10:52 of the second period, when he outworked Rebels defenceman Dylan Bowerman in the Rebels corner, and sent a quick pass to the front of the net that went off a Rebels’ player and in behind Castlegar goalie Patrick Zubic to make it 2-1.
Game 1 was typical of a Castlegar and Beaver Valley playoff rivalry loaded with big hits, some chippy play, and lots of end-to-end action, as the teams racked up almost 60 minutes in penalties, and five game misconducts to end the game.
“It’s playoff hockey and we can’t control the refs,” said Nitehawks assistant coach Jamie Cominotto. “He calls what he sees, there’s nothing we can do about that, we play between the whistles, faceoff to faceoff, we can’t worry about what the ref’s calling. If we stay disciplined we’ll be fine.”
Castlegar came out hitting early and knocked the Nitehawks off their game when Hunter Jenerou opened the scoring six minutes into the first period. Jenerou took a pass from Chase Reddin at the blue line and fired a slapshot that deflected off a Nitehawk defenceman and slipped through the pads of Hawks goalie Brett Clark.
“We were just a little slow at the start, but once we got our feet under us we were good to go,” said Nitehawk captain Archie McKinnon.
The Hawks were flying in the second, peppering Zubic with 21 shots in the period and 39 through the first two. The Hawks forwards were gripping their sticks a little too tightly as they failed to convert on a number of breakaways and open-net chances, or were stymied by the Rebels’ goaltender, until Ryan Edwards solved Zubic at 16:02 of the middle frame.
“You know what, it’s nerves, and I think we did have a lot of chances to score, but next time around those are going into the back of the net,” said Cominotto. “As long as you get the job done that’s all that matters.”
Edwards took a pass from Riley Brandt, flew down the right side, and from an impossible angle roofed the puck short side over Zubic’s shoulder to tie it at one. Stafford would put B.V. up for good midway through the second and Keenan Patershuk would get the insurance marker in the third when he took a behind-the-net feed from Mitch Foyle and beat Zubic with a quick wrister.
The Nitehawks fired 57 shots at the Rebels net, while Clark was great when he had to be, making 30 saves for the Hawks.
Cominotto expects the rivalry to stay heated throughout the series.
“We play a simple style, we want to skate and play to our style. Castlegar played a really good hockey game tonight, they checked us hard, they played physical and we have to answer the bell, and as long as we stick to our game plan, we’ll have a very successful playoff.”
Game 2 went Thursday night but the score was unavailable at press time. Game 3 of the Nitehawks and Rebels series goes tonight in Castlegar at the Rec Complex at 7:30 p.m.
The Spokane Braves, meanwhile, tied their series with the Nelson Leafs in a 5-3 victory Wednesday, after dropping a close 2-1 game on Tuesday.
In the Eddie Mountain division Creston took a 2-0 series lead with 5-1 and 7-4 wins over the Columbia Valley Rockies. The Kimberley Dynamiters also went up 2-0 with identical 5-2 wins over Fernie on Tuesday and Wednesday.
In the Okanagan/Shushwap Conference Sicamous shocked the number-one seed Kamloops Storm with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 1, while Osoyoos Coyotes took a pair of games from the Kelowna Chiefs by 5-0 and 5-2 scores. The Chase Heat and 100-Mile House Weranglers split their games with the Wranglers winning 5-4 in OT, before the Heat evened the series with a 4-3 win on Wednesday. The North Okanagan Knights rounded out the action with an 8-3 victory over Summerland Steam.
Game 3 of the Nitehawks and Rebels series goes tonight in Castlegar at the Rec Complex at 7:30 p.m.