FRUITVALE — The Beaver Valley Nitehawks scored four consecutive goals to down the Castlegar Rebels 4-2 in Game 3 of the Neil Murdoch Division Semifinal series Monday night.
The series sits at 2-1 for the Rebels with Game 4 Tuesday night in Fruitvale.
Nitehawks goaltender Liam Coulter was outstanding from start to finish, stopping the majority of the Rebels’ high-quality scoring chances.
While Rebels head coach and general manager Bill Rotheisler expected the first-period surge from Beaver Valley, the response from his team came as a surprise.
“We never expected a sweep. We know that it’s tough to play in this barn. It’s one thing to say it, it’s another thing to experience it,” Rotheisler said after the game in a still boisterous dressing room.
“We set certain criteria, objective things we could do. Obviously, you don’t know which way a puck is going to bounce. It’s a tough crowd to play in front of and they’re a tough team. You can’t get wrapped up in the officials, you can’t get wrapped up in the crowd and the other team’s antics. We fell into that big time and that was the difference between tonight and that 3-0 game. We had the discipline to step away from that sort of thing [in Game 2],” Rotheisler said.
“We’re sitting there getting mad at refs during the play when you’re supposed to be backchecking. It’s one thing to voice your opinion between whistles, but we’re talking during the play when you’re supposed to be contributing to the play. They owned us mentally.”
The Rebels managed to settle things down toward the later stages of the first period, but still couldn’t fully find their pace.
“Once we start playing our way it’s nice to find some success. Who knows if Ren’s [Mason] play, where he almost deked out the goaltender, if that puck goes in, maybe that gives us enough motivation to put everything else aside. You have to be mentally strong to realize that you don’t know the price of goal for that particular day.”
The Nitehawks jumped out to a 3-1 lead after two periods.
Andrew Petten opened the scoring for the Rebels on an unassisted marker just under six minutes into the second period, but the Nitehawks stormed back.
Dylan Heppler scored with assists from Dylan Kent and Sam Swanson to tie it at 1-1. Bradley Ross then scored on the power play from Kevan McBean and Dylan Kent, and then Kevan McBean scored unassisted to make it 3-1 after two. McBean got his second goal halfway through the third period, and the Rebels’ Shawn Campbell scored on the power play with 3:06 left in the game.
In the third, the Nitehawks kept up the relentless forechecking and pushed the Rebels into penalty trouble.
“Everybody knows what they did wrong. Nobody feels good about this game. They all wish there was a fourth period we could go out and play,” Rotheisler said.
A bright spot towards the end of the game was the return to the frenetic style of play that pushed the Rebels to great heights during the season.
“That last four minutes, despite having two extra guys, it showed us back playing to that sense of urgency,” Rotheisler said. “When we’re successful we have a sense of urgency. We’re getting to loose pucks, and we’re winning those 50/50 battles. We were hesitant in a lot of the battles. We were conceding the play a lot. A lot of times when there was a loose puck we were too quick to play defence and maybe thinking too much on our heels.”
The push in the last two minutes of the game was a good sign for Game 4, Rotheisler said.
“It’s a great sign. It was a quick reminder of how we are supposed to play. Even when we had that rhythm and things were going well, it still wasn’t our usual style of play. What’s awesome about this bench is as soon as we get one, we could be down by — it doesn’t matter — as soon as we get one, it’s like ‘we’re going to win this game.'”
There was no score after the first, despite intense forechecking pressure by the Nitehawks and an aggressive power play.
Rebels goaltender Tanner Douglas had to be sharp on several A-level scoring chances early in the game, or the score could have been more lopsided.
There was a large and loud contingent of Rebels fans in the stands, which made for an exciting atmosphere in the Beaver Valley Arena.
Game 4 is Tuesday at 7 p.m.