Beaver Valley Nitehawks clinch KIJHL title, play Nitros tonight
There was no fanfare, but earlier this week the Beaver Valley Nitehawks won the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s regular season title, without even stepping on the ice.
An Osoyoos Coyotes 6-4 loss to the Summerland Steam on Monday clinched the KIJHL overall-points crown for the Nitehawks, a title they last won in 2012.
“It was pretty exciting when we won the game on Saturday, we thought that that was it,” said Hawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “It’s a feather in your cap and I think our team’s excited by that for sure.”
The 36-8-0-1 Coyotes had won nine straight in the Okanagan Conference and could have caught the Hawks if they had won out and BV lost their remaining games, but the loss to the second place Steam decided the matter.
“They (Osoyoos) are a good team, and I know they’re really well coached, and a really good organization. So to beat the Coyotes and get the top notch in the league is awesome … but we have larger fish to fry.”
Beaver Valley plays the 32-13-0-1 Kimberley Dynamiters tonight in its last regular-season home game, and while the Hawks have won the previous two match ups, B.V. will be without leading scorer Tyler Hartman, forwards Nolan Percival and Damon Kramer, and defencemen Karsten Jang and Ryan Terpsma. But with the Major Midget Kootenay Ice on the road, B.V. has few options for affiliate players and will ice a short lineup tonight.
“We’re banged up, and we’re banged up like Trail (Smoke Eaters) is,” said Jones. “We have five or six guys out and it’s hard because we can’t get any affiliates ourselves that weekend.”
Despite having clinched the KIJHL title, the Hawks won’t rest on their laurels in their final two games against Kimberley tonight and Fernie on Sunday.
“We look at every game as a must win … and going into it we know Kimberley is a team we may face in the (Kootenay Conference) finals and Fernie is the same. Teams in that division are all tough and each game provides another opportunity for us to grow and get better.”
The Nitehawks have only lost four games this season, and won their 16th in a row on Saturday with a 7-2 victory over the Columbia Valley Rockies. They won’t match the 42 wins of 2011-12 due to a shortened 47-game schedule this year, with KIJHL teams playing five fewer games, however, their 38 victories and counting is the league’s best and the most the Hawks have won since then.
“We’ve found a way to win all kinds of games, and that’s a credit to the leadership of our team,” said Jones. “I really feel it’s their preparation that has enabled us to stay on this extended run.”
The Beaver Valley Nitehawks will also tip its hat to its heritage by recognizing the contribution of over 30 head and assistant Nitehawk coaches with a ceremony before tonight’s game.
Beaver Valley takes on Kimberley at 7:30 p.m. at the Beaver Valley Arena tonight, and travels to Fernie to play the Ghostriders on Sunday.