The Grand Forks Border Bruins gave the Beaver Valley Nitehawks all they could handle Tuesday night at the Beaver Valley Arena, as the home team barely squeaked past the emboldened Bruins, 6-4.
Grand Forks jumped into a 3-0 lead in the first period, pouncing on uncharacteristic giveaways in the neutral zone and a sluggish performance by the Nitehawks.
“It was a lackadaisical effort, an uncommitted effort and an all around disaster from a coach’s perspective,” said Nitehawk assistant coach Jeremy Cominotto.
The Nitehawks didn’t look like the same team that whipped the first-place Fernie Ghostriders 7-1 at home last week, that sit atop the league with 25 wins and only five losses, and had won their last 11 games in a row. Could complacency be setting in?
“It is getting more difficult to keep them motivated but at the same time this could have been the best thing for our team,” Cominotto added. “You have to take this as an emotional defeat.”
The Nitehawks clawed back in the middle frame to tie it with only seconds remaining in the period.
However, they squandered three two-man advantages and went an anemic one for 10 on the power play, including a number of missed open -net opportunities and four hit posts.
Grand Forks skated with more heart, got great goaltending from recent addition and first star Dylan Quinn, had a superlative penalty killing unit and capitalized on their scoring opportunities. They did not look like a team that has only one win in 30 games.
“The effort was great for us, and it was a great step in the right direction,” said Bruins coach Matt Zamec. “The most impressive thing was just the positivity on the bench.”
While the effort bodes well for the emerging Bruins, the Hawks did just enough to win.
Tied at three in the third, Arie Possmus buried a slapshot from the point seven minutes in, and Dallas Calvin notched the eventual game winner three minutes later with a snap shot, top shelf past Quinn.
With just over a minute to play, Cody Robertson scored his second of the night to put the Bruins right back in it. With the Hawks up 5-4, a late interference call on Possmus gave the Bruins the man advantage but the Nitehawks hung on and iced it with an empty netter in the last second of the game.
“We have to be happy with getting two points but at the same time, a disgraceful effort like that has to be an eye opener,” said Cominotto.
The Nitehawks face division rivals the Nelson Leafs this weekend and will have to be better to win.
“We have nelson back to back, and a home and home with Castlegar right after Christmas, so probably the four biggest games of the season; we definitely have to be better. If we play like we did tonight we’ll lose badly.”
The Nitehawks outshot the Bruins 53 to 18.
The second-place Castlegar Rebels defeated Spokane Braves 6-0 in other action Tuesday and remain five points back of the Nitehawks.