The Castlegar Rebels took control of their best-of-seven playoff series against the visiting Beaver Valley Nitehawks with a 3-0 shutout to go up two games to none.
Rebels caption Vince Bitonti scored two power-play goals to lead the offence, while goaltender Tanner Douglas stopped all 22 shots he faced.
Brady Daniels scored on a rebound and added an assist to round out the scoring.
While the power play grabbed the spotlight, it was the three-C line that set the tempo for the Rebels.
“The Tanner Costa, Brandon Costa, Shawn Campbell line is our ignition,” head coach and general manager Bill Rotheisler said. “As a coach, you usually ease them into situations but they practised all week and you’re just like, ‘wow, they’re ready.’ I really credit that line to driving the bus right now.”
The trio was buzzing all game, pressuring the Nitehawks on every puck battle. That tenacity was doubly impressive considering the line fought through injuries this season.
“That line was all injured for a long time and yesterday was their first game back. A lot of that goes to our trainers as well for not pushing guys back too early. We really took out time and we were really patient this year, especially with that style of play when you play gritty and you get to loose pucks with really little care for how they’re going in to get it,” Rotheisler said.
One of the keys for the Rebels Saturday was matching lines with the Nitehawks, an advantage that goes to the home team with the last line change.
“We fight 47 games to get home-ice advantage and you’d hate to waste it. We line-match throughout the regular season but not as much because you want to give certain guys opportunities in different situations so, one, as a coach, you get to know how they are in that situation, and two, so they can evolve themselves in that position,” Rotheisler said. “If we’re not confident with what we’ve evaluated over the course of the year and don’t take advantage of that without hesitation, then why are we doing it?”
While Rebels netminder Douglas was not that busy, he was sharp when called upon. He also demonstrated tremendous positioning and puck vision through consistent net-front traffic.
“We expect all of our guys to front pucks and block shots, and the risk/reward with that is you leave more on your goalie’s ability to see through traffic and get those pucks,” Rotheisler said. “That’s what so awesome about Dougie (Tanner Douglas). He’s good. We can have it so he doesn’t see a shot for a couple of minutes then have two quick ones and he’s ready.”
Douglas often threw out the blocker to deflect the puck in traffic.
As the series shifts for Game 3 in Fruitvale Monday night, Rotheisler said his team is aware that they’re in for an increased battle.
“Everything is a different game in Fruitvale. They’re good in that barn. They’re comfortable, and our job is to make them a little less comfortable,” Rotheisler said.
“All bets are really off. They’re really good at home. A well-coached team like that — and Terry Jones has always been this way — they just lost 3-0 and they don’t sit down and take it. They come back with a chip on their shoulder. That’s one of the things we admire about them and they’ve done that for years.”
The Nitehawks did not let up despite the score late in the penalty-filled affair. There were eight misconducts throughout the game and a fight between the Rebels’ Reid Wilson and the Nitehawks’ Christian Macasso near the end of the game. Expect that animosity and energy to escalate as the series advances.
Game 3 is Monday night at 7 p.m. in Fruitvale.