You gotta love playoff hockey, especially between two teams whose seasoned rivalry has been heating up for almost 40 years.
The Beaver Valley Nitehawks and Castlegar Rebels Game 4 tilt at the B.V. Arena in Fruitvale was everything expected and more, as the Hawks held on for a thrilling 7-6 victory over the Rebels and tied the Murdoch Division semifinal at two games apiece.
“It was a tale of about four different games there,” said Nitehawks coach Terry Jones. “We were so lacklustre starting off that game, in the first 25 minutes, they should have been up four or five goals.
“They have a good hockey team there, and we respect them a lot, they came alive, and, wow, did Liam (Coulter) make some saves when he needed to at the end.”
Hawks defenceman Kevan McBean scored his second straight game-winning goal at 19:10 of the third period when he walked in from the blue line and wired a shot past Rebels goalie Curt Doyle, who came on in relief of Tanner Douglas after two periods.
Few fans at the Hawks Nest thought McBean’s second goal of the game and fifth of the series, the one that put B.V. up 7-3, would stand as the game winner, but it did – just barely.
“You can’t expect anything in these series, they’re so close,” said B.V. assistant captain Nolan Percival. “Every shot counts, playoffs are crazy.”
Following a 4-2 loss Monday night, the Rebels switched to another gear, and dominated the Nitehawks in the first period. Chase Daniels scored less than three minutes in to give the Rebels a 1-0 lead as the Hawks struggled to find their game.
B.V. got on the board at 12:35 when a McBean point shot drifted through traffic and over the shoulder of Douglas to tie the game at 1-1.
But Castlegar kept coming and went on the power play after Bradley Ross was sent off for hooking. The Rebels worked the puck down low and Chris Breese found Vince Bitonti at the back door for the tap in and a 2-1 lead at 8:49 of the first. Castlegar controlled the play for the rest of the first period, but Hawks goalie Liam Coulter was again up to the task, and kept the Rebels from causing more damage in the first, despite the visitors enjoying a 15-9 shot advantage.
“We didn’t play very well, but we just tried to stay positive,” said Jones. “We came out and they got that early goal, and it was a struggle, then all of a sudden it turned around.”
The Hawks escaped the first down 2-1, however, the Rebels struck again early in the second on another power play goal when point-man Ren Mason faked a shot and sent a perfect slap-pass to Tanner Costa who redirected it past Coulter for a 3-1 Castlegar lead.
Moments later the Rebels swarmed the Hawks net, and a B.V. defender was called for smothering the puck in the crease with his glove and Castlegar awarded a penalty shot.
Chase Daniels skated in slowly and tried to go five-hole but Coulter kept his stick on the ice and stymied the Rebels forward.
The save sparked the Nitehawks and, after a four-minute spearing penalty to the Rebels Jordan Wood, the tide turned.
“They had the penalty shot, and we got the momentum from there,” said Jones. “We had a great stretch, but then holy cow did we fall apart in the third period after we went up 7-3. That old axiom, when you think it’s going to be easy, it just all of a sudden becomes really, really hard, and that’s exactly what happened.”
B.V. scored three goals in a two minute span with Jaxen Gemmell making a slick move in front to score a power-play goal at 12:51, followed by Nolan Percival’s bank shot off the back of Douglas at 11:59 to tie it. Sixty-nine seconds later Christian Macasso lifted in a rebound for the Hawks 4-3 go-ahead marker.
But the onslaught didn’t stop there, as Nitehawks Aidan Browell broke in and scored on a nifty deke to put B.V. up 5-3 with 6:55 left in the middle frame, and Percival netted his second power-play marker, one-timing a Dylan Heppler pass to put Beaver Valley up 6-3 heading to the third.
“We just started moving our feet, and getting pucks in deep, not trying to toe-drag, but just grind,” said Percival. “We weren’t getting into the grind of the game in the first period, but once all four lines were going it feels pretty good.”
After McBean looked to put the game away, the Rebels regrouped, and again the momentum shifted, as the Rebels late charge caught the Nitehawks on their heels for the rest of the battle.
“The game is such a momentum game, and I think it got away from us defensively,” said Jones. “We’ll have to go look at the video and shore it up that’s for sure.”
Third period goals from Mason and Brandon Costa three minutes apart brought the Rebels to within two, and Ed Lindsey chipped in a rebound on a mad scramble in front to cut the lead to 7-6 with over 6:28 remaining.
The Rebels attack was relentless, but the Nitehawks somehow kept their composure and Coulter again made a desperation pad save off a Rebels forward in the dying seconds to preserve the win for the Hawks.
“All in all we’ll take the win, and go back, it’s two-out-of-three right now,” said Jones. “You don’t ask, ‘How you do it?’ you have to win all kinds of games, so we’ll take this one today.”
Castlegar outshot the Nitehawks 44-35 and went 2-for-4 on the power play, while B.V. scored four times on six opportunities with the extra man. Gemmell had a great game scoring once and adding three assists, while Percival and McBean chipped in with two goals and one helper, and Sam Swanson added three assists. Mason counted three points for the Rebels.
In the other Neil Murdoch Division playoff, the Grand Forks Border Bruins skated to a 3-1 win over the Nelson Leafs. The Leafs hold a 3-1 series lead, with the series heading back to Nelson on Thursday.
Game 5 of the Nitehawks-Rebels series goes on Thursday in Castlegar with the puck drop at 7 p.m. Game 6 is scheduled for Friday at the Hawks Nest at 7:30 p.m.