The Beaver Valley Nitehawks ended its exhibition season on a high note on Tuesday with a decisive 9-3 victory over the Castlegar Rebels.
The Hawks and Rebels skated to a 2-2 draw in their exhibition match in Castlegar on Monday, but it was a slightly different B.V. team that routed the Rebels at the Hawks Nest the following night.
“We had more veteran defencemen in the game tonight and it just seemed to perk our play up,” said Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones. “We were just a little sharper with the passes coming our of our zone.”
Cranbrook native Dayton Nelson scored the game winning goal on a power play with 4:22 to play in the first period to give the Hawks a 4-2 lead, and finish their exhibition season with three wins, two losses and a tie.
The victory wraps up a six-game week of preseason play that included splits with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats last week and the Nelson Leafs on the weekend. The Nitehawks lost to Nelson 5-3 in B.V. on Friday, but rebounded with a 3-1 victory on Saturday thanks to a stellar performance from goalie Kevin Engman.
The team welcomes back a strong contingent of veteran players including captain Morgan Peace, assistants Bradley Ross, Angus Amadio, and Brock Wallace, as well as Jared Stocks, Kevin Duguid, Simon Nemethy, Nathan and Marty Ingram, Jesse Ihas, and goalie Saran Virdee.
The Nitehawks also confirmed that Luke Woodrow will return to their line up on Thursday. The six-foot-one, 175-pound defenceman played 46 games with B.V. last season, scoring 15 points and 57 penalty minutes, and proved a reliable and powerful force on the back end.
“We just found out today that Luke Woodrow is returning as well, so that’s another key addition to our back end.”
Less than five minutes into the first period, the Nitehawks jumped out to a quick 3-0 start on goals from Marty Ingram, Zach Park, and Bradley Ross. Castlegar regrouped and chipped in two past six-foot-six goalie Tuomas Bowland from Chamcook, N.B. to make it 3-2.
The B.V. vs Castlegar matchups are always physical, but on Tuesday, chippy play resulted in a number of hits from behind, including one that sent Hawks forward Marcus McEachern to the hospital for stitches midway throuth the second period. B.V. kept its composure and struck three times on the ensuing five-minute power play. An Anderson blast from the point beat Rebels goalie Cailan McDonald, and goals from Joshua Brandabura and Stocks made it a 7-2 Hawks’ lead.
“Early in the game we got off to the big 3-0 start with some really good forecheck and attacks to the net, and some nice goals, and then it became a real penalty-filled affair. We stayed disciplined, and you have to stay disciplined in this league, otherwise it’s hard to play.”
With 4:27 to go in the middle frame, Castlegar snuck one by Engman, who split the game with Bowland. The 18-year-old Trail product shut the door after that and B.V.’s Nate Ingram and Nelson completed the scoring in the third.
Beaver Valley outshot the Rebels 63-25, and scored five power-play goals as the Rebels racked up 77-minutes in penalties compared to 41 for the Nitehawks.
The Hawks rookie tandem of Nelson (2G) and Park (1G, 2A) were impressive on the night, while Fruitvale’s Nate Ingram also chipped in a goal and two helpers.
“I thought Dayton Nelson had a great game, and Zach Park played great,” said Jones. “I really liked the play of our defence, and thought Quaid Anderson was really strong. Early on, I thought everyone looked good, but I thought those guys were our most consistent on the night.”
Park is part of a healthy local infusion into the Nitehawks line up that includes Greater Trail players Ethan Jang, Lucas Anselmo, Jarred Macasso, and Engman, who join veteran Trail players Ross, Peace, Ihas and the Ingram twins.
“We’ve got quite a few guys from the Trail area, and a good mix of vets and also a good mix of talented rookies, so I like the composition of our team right now and we still have a few things to do but I sure like the way things are shaping up.”
In addition, the Nitehawks welcome Grande Prairie products Brennan Wilson (D) and forward Mason Hartman (younger brother of former Nitehawk, Tyler Hartman) and forward McEachern from Edmonton.
The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) opens its season on the weekend with Beaver Valley facing off against the Dynamiters in Kimberley on Friday and the Border Bruins in Grand Forks on Saturday.
“I think it’s a great challenge for us, I’m glad we’re going to Kimberley, and I think as a coaching staff we’re ready for it,” added Jones. “We’re going to get prepared these next couple nights and practice a bit and look for a good match against a really good team.”
The Dynamiters ended their preseason with two convincing 7-1 and 4-1 wins over the Golden Rockets but Coach Derek Stuart isn’t overlooking their upcoming game against the Hawks.
“Based on how they played at the end of last season (taking the Dynamiters to triple overtime in the divisional playoffs, game 5), I predict them to be very good this year. In my opinion, they are one of the teams to beat.”
Hawks Notes: The Nitehawks first home game goes on Sept. 20 against the 100 Mile House Wranglers. Beaver Valley did a great job of avoiding home-game conflicts with the Trail Smoke Eaters this season. B.V. and Trail have only three games scheduled on the same nights, Oct. 18, and Jan. 10 and 18.