The KIJHL’s Neil Murdoch Division is as tight as a drum with just two points separating the top-three teams.
The Beaver Valley Nitehawks trail the Nelson Leafs and Grand Forks Border Bruins by just two points as the teams pass the first quarter of league play this weekend. As the year progresses each game becomes more important, and wins against division opponents almost a necessity in the battle for the number-1 Kootenay Conference seed.
The Nitehawks play three games in five days this week starting tonight against the division-rival Rebels in Castlegar, followed by a home-ice tilt against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Saturday, and another on Tuesday versus the Rebels.
The 8-3-0-1 Hawks look to extend a five-game winning streak against a 6-4-0-1 Rebels squad that has been fortifying its lineup with two recent acquisitions in top-notch defenceman Scott Rademaker and goaltender Tanner Douglas from the Vancouver Island Hockey League. The Rebels dealt d-man Conner Bavaro and goaltender and Trail native Jason Mailhiot to the Comox Glacier Kings in exchange for Rademaker, and made a separate deal for Douglas.
B.V. meanwhile has been on a roll in October, having beefed up its blueline with Karsten Jang and Kevan McBean. However, the Rebels have won three-of-four games in October, their only loss to Nelson last Friday and are just five points back of the Hawks with a game in hand.
The Nitehawks Brad Ross elevated his game this past month, scoring six goals and eight points in the past six games, while Dylan Heppler continues to impress netting eight points in the last five games and sits in third place in league scoring with 10 goals and 20 points.
The Thunder Cats have got off to a tepid start with five wins in 10 games but sit in second place in the Eddie Mountain Division behind the 9-2-0-0 Kimberley Dynamiters. The return of Calgary native Justen James from the Kindersley Klippers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has certainly given the team a boost as James tallied three goals and six points in the five games he’s played since returning Sept. 29.
Veteran Liam Plunkett leads the Cats in scoring with seven goals and 15 points and former Major Midget Kootenay Ice goalie Jaysen MacLean has been steady in the Creston goal with a 2.64 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.
The Hawks host the Cats on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and will face off against Castlegar on Tuesday at the Hawks’ Nest at 7 p.m.