It may not have been the best hockey the Beaver Valley Nitehawks have played, but they emerged from a demanding three-games-in-three-days weekend with two wins and a tie.
The Nitehawks were 38 seconds away from a three-win weekend, but a goal from Spokane Braves forward Matthew Klenk tied the game and sent it to overtime. Hawks goalie Saran Virdee kicked out a quick shot from Nate Wilson in the slot but Klenk jumped on the rebound and fired it by Virdee for the tying goal.
“It’s hard to give up a late goal like that and give up the tie,” said Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones. “We were pretty sloppy all weekend with our play, so to get five-of-six points is great, but we still have lots of work to do.”
The Nitehawks had to make a number of tough decisions heading into the weekend, adding forward John Usselman from the Kimberley Dynamiters and 18-year-old, six-foot-one defenceman Kaden Katelnikoff, a Calgary product.
“John is a guy that we acquired from Kimberley. He’s a bigger guy with a great release … and he’s going to score a lot of goals for us. Kaden is a great young player, was in Nipawin of the Saskatchewan league, is a good skater and he’s smart and competitive. As they learn how we play, they’re really going to be assets for our team.”
The Hawks also released Dayton Nelson for disciplinary reasons, and sent Mason Hartman to the Castlegar Rebels and Joshua Brandabura to the Creston Thunder Cats for player development fees. Jones says that B.V. will likely not stop there as the countdown starts for the Jan. 10 trade deadline.
“We really appreciate how hard those guys worked for us, and it was a tough decision to let those guys go.
“We’re getting closer,” said Jones. “We don’t have a lot of cards left, but we’ll continue to look and tweak and make our line up better.”
The Hawks opened the scoring early in the first period when affiliate player Austin McKenzie from the Major Midget Kootenay Ice scored on a scramble in front of Braves goalie Marcello De Antunano at 16:46.
The game stayed that way until late in the second when Klenk broke down the left side and sniped a low shot to tie it 1-1 with 40 seconds remaining in the middle frame. Spokane threw a blanket over the Hawks offence, in a tight checking, defensive struggle allowing B.V. few quality chances in the period.
“I give full marks to Spokane today they came in and played with a lot of energy,” said Jones. “Early on we played well, but then as the game wore on we really dragged and struggled. I give them the credit for making us look bad.”
The Hawks reclaimed the lead in the third period when Angus Amadio scored on the power play, deflecting a shot from Quaid Anderson with 6:18 to play.
De Antunano and Virdee traded saves through the third period, with the Braves goalie stymieing Phillip Lessard on a break away midway through the third, and the Hawks goalie coming up big, until the last-minute goal forced the OT.
Virdee made his biggest save of the night with three minutes left in the second overtime. The Braves forward had an open net at the right post, but Virdee sprawled across the goal line and robbed him of a sure goal with the glove.
“It was a tremendous save, certainly game-saving for sure,” said Jones. “I was happy with his effort today.”
Beaver Valley outshot Spokane 41-39 and was 1-for-6 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill.
On Saturday, Bradley Ross netted a hat trick and Amadio scored twice for a four-point night in an 8-6 shootout win over the Grand Forks Border Bruins.
In Friday’s match, Beaver Valley goalie Kevin Engman was named the game star in backstopping the Hawks to a 3-2 victory over the Fernie Ghostriders.
The 16-4-2-3 Nitehawks move to within a point of the Neil Murdoch Division leaders, Nelson Leafs, and have two games in hand, while Spokane remains in third place in the division with a 11-13-1-2 record.
B.V. heads to the Okanagan to take on the Bill Ohlhausen division leading Kelowna Chiefs, 20-5-1-0, on Friday and the last place Osoyoos Coyotes, 4-20-1-2, on Saturday.