Sports

A battered Nitehawks team takes on Chiefs

With the trade deadline imminent, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks won’t be making any last-minute moves unless it has to, as it preps for a couple of tough weekend matches against the Kelowna Chiefs tonight and in Grand Forks versus the Border Bruins on Saturday.

Beaver Valley is standing pat as far as today’s trade deadline goes, however, the team will look to fill an open card due to the loss of forward Sam Barker.

The Penticton native is gone for the season due to a major shoulder injury at the end of last month that required surgery.

Injury and illness have ravaged the Hawks line up of late, with perhaps the most significant loss to that of the 17-year-old Barker. The dynamic forward scored four goals and added 10 assists in 25 games this season.

The Hawks also have been without the services of Dan Holland, Grayson Sharpe, and Sheldon Hubbard due to injury, and most recently Sam Swanson and Jeremy Lucchini, as well as Braden Fuller who has been bit by the flu bug.

The team practiced with just 14 players Wednesday to prepare for the Okanagan division leading Chiefs. But Kelowna also suffered a major setback last month, losing KIJHL leading scorer Nick Josephs to the BCHL Salmon Arm SilverBacks. The 19-year-old Josephs still leads the league with 37 goals and 38 assists in 33 games.

“It’s a really big loss for them (Kelowna),” said Jones. “He’s just a really dynamic player, and he’s a player the calibre of Ryan Edwards or Dallas Calvin, he can change a game all by himself.”

In their first meeting on Nov. 16, the Chiefs beat the Hawks in overtime 7-6. Josephs had a five-point night, scoring four goals including the tying goal and winning marker in OT.  Despite the loss of Josephs, Kelowna still poses a challenge with Jagger Bowles, 22-31-53, leading the attack. The Chiefs also own the best power play in the league scoring 27.38 per cent of the time, with Beaver Valley close behind at 26.9 per cent.

The big question is, what will the Nitehawks’ line up look like?

“I don’t know what kind of team we are going to be icing, we might only have 15 guys, I don’t know,” said Jones.

Following the Chiefs, the Nitehawks will then face a surging Grand Forks team that swept a pair of road games last weekend, beating Kelowna 6-4 on Saturday, after pounding the North Okanagan Knights 5-2 Friday.

“Grand Forks is going to be a tough game for us, and even without Josephs Kelowna will be tough.”

Led by Connor Gross, who netted six points in the two games, Grand Forks has closed the gap on fourth place Spokane, trailing the Braves by just one point for the final playoff berth in the Neil Murdoch division.

The Nitehawks meanwhile trail Nelson by just one point, 59, but have a game in hand on the Leafs who play the Castlegar Rebels tonight and Spokane tomorrow.

The Hawks have been unbeatable, with 10-straight wins that included a pair of home-and-home series victories over Castlegar and Nelson following the Christmas break. Calvin has led the way collecting 13 points in the last five games, with Edwards netting 11, and defenceman Archie McKinnon chipping in nine points over the same period.

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Brett Clark has also been stellar carrying much of the load in net, including five straight starts. The Hawks goalie has 15 wins to go along with just three losses, a 2.58 GAA, and a .921 save percentage.

“We’ve really come together, those games after Christmas were a real benchmark for us,” added Jones. “I think the guys came back after Christmas in really good shape, and really determined to win those four games. It did a lot for the confidence of our team for sure.”

The Nitehawks and the Chiefs go tonight at the B.V. Arena at 7:30 p.m.

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