It wasn’t the finish to the regular season the Beaver Valley Nitehawks expected, but with the KIJHL title and home-ice wrapped up, a little adversity may prove a positive before the playoffs begin on Friday.
The Nitehawks’ were without leading scorers Tyler Hartman and Nolan Percival as their season-long 16-game winning streak came to an end on Friday with a 6-3 loss to the Kimberley Dynamiters at the Hawk’s Nest, and was followed by a tough 3-2 OT setback to the Ghostriders in Fernie on Sunday.
“It’s the right time to have that happen to us,” said Nitehawks head coach and GM Terry Jones. “We view that everything happens for a reason; our extended roll was amazing and we found ways to win at times we probably should have lost. When that happens you build up that false sense of security, so that now I think it refocuses us and it’s the right time to start getting ready for playoffs.”
The Nitehawks racked up 80 points this season with 38 wins, five regulation time losses, one tie, and three overtime losses, their best record since the 2013-14 season when the won the KIJHL championship, Cyclone and Keystone Cups. That year, the Hawks played five more games in the regular schedule and ended the season with identical 38 wins and 80 points, but with 10 losses, a tie, and three OTLs.
On Sunday, the Ghostriders took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal from Aidan Wilson at 6:33 of the first period, but B.V. regrouped in the second period when Dylan Heppler tied it on a scramble in front of the Fernie net at 12:15. Tyler Ghirardosi put the Hawks up 2-1 scoring a shorthanded goal on a breakaway with assists to Jaxon Gemmel and goalie Owen Sikkes.
The Nitehawks netminder was outstanding throughout the physical match, stopping 45 shots, as the Ghostriders enjoyed eight power-play opportunities, including two game misconducts to an already shorthanded Nitehawks team. A penalty to the Hawks captain Sam Swanson with 1:09 to play proved their undoing, as the Ghostriders Keelan Saworski score five seconds later to tie the game and force overtime.
“Owen (Sikkes) played really well,” said Jones. “The game was there, and I thought we played decently, but ultimately, another thing that has to improve is – our lack of discipline was something that needs to be addressed and it will. Guys were frustrated with the officiating, and let their frustrations get away from themselves.”
Ryan Kennedy ended it with 1:48 remaining in the first OT period, scoring on an unassisted effort for the 3-2 victory. Kennedy was named player of the game for Fernie, while Sikkes took the nod for the Nitehawks, as the Ghostriders outshot B.V. 48-38 and went 2-for-8 on the power play, while the Hawks were scoreless in just three opportunities .
On Friday, the Dynamiters jumped out to a 3-0 first-period lead, and the Nitehawks couldn’t recover, as Kimberley earned its first victory of the season over B.V. Brandt Bertoia scored twice for Kimberley and added an assist, with Brandon Langridge netting a goal and three assists, and singles from Franco Colapaolo, James Farmer, and Devon Langelaar. Tyler Gharardosi, Sidoni, and Swanson replied for the Hawks, with Evan Gorman pitching in with two assists.
“We had an off-night, and every time we made a mistake, our mistakes were big mistakes,” said Jones. “They’re mistakes that we’vebeen trying to rectify – in terms of our back check and picking people up, our defensive zone coverage. We just need to shore some things up. We’re going to watch some video and we’ll get better and be ready for our next game.”
Player of the game went to B.V.’s Aiden Browell and Kimberley’s Bertoia, as the Hawks outshot the Nitros 37-28.
The Nitehawks will play the Grand Forks Border Bruins in the first round of the playoffs as the third and fourth seed came down to the final game of the season. The Nelson Leafs trailed the Border Bruins by one point and the two teams faced each other in the season’s final game on Saturday. The Leafs went on to defeat the Bruins 5-2 and claim the third spot in the Neil Murdoch division. The Leafs face off against the Castlegar Rebels in the other first round best-of-seven match up.