The Beaver Valley Nitehawks have been buoyed by some unexpected returnees from last year’s championship squad as they prepare to open the season Friday in Grand Forks.
At the start of training camp it looked as though the Nitehawks would be loaded with first-year players, but with the unexpected return of versatile defenceman Archie McKinnon and standout goalie Zach Perehudoff last week, the lineup received a significant boost.
“I would have never expected to get Edwards, McKinnon, and Perehudoff (back),” said Hawks coach and GM Terry Jones. “Arguably you could have said that all three guys were our MVPs in the playoffs last year . . . we’re excited to have them and have them lead our team, that’s for sure.”
McKinnon finished last season with two goals and 14 assists, while Perehudoff appeared in 26 games winning 19, with three shutouts, a 2.84 GAA, and .900 save percentage.
The pair joins returning veterans forward Ryan Edwards 35-60-95, defencemen Nick Perez 7-25-32, and Arie Postmus 5-17-22. The Nitehawks also added some size in six-foot, 205-pound defenceman Walker Sidoni, acquired earlier this year in a trade with Nelson, and six-foot-five forward Danny Vlanich.
As expected, the team is heavily laden with rookies, however, the Hawks will continue to make roster additions as players filter through the Junior A camps.
In exhibition matches last week the Nitehawks managed a win and a tie against Nelson, before dropping two 4-2 games to Castlegar and an 8-2 loss to Selkirk College on Sunday, in its third game in three days.
“We’re pretty excited about the group of young guys we got,” said Jones. “I think the game against Selkirk College fatigue played a factor, but the games with Castlegar were competitive and was a good test for our players.”
Rookies like 18-year-old Brad Gaboury from Grande Prairie, Alta. has impressed the coaching staff with his speed and work ethic over the camp. Jones also said he liked the skill set of defencemen Jaymes Veitch and Jordan Bandura and the character of players such as Taylor Stafford.
“We’re really excited about Connor Brown-Maloski, he brings a lot of skill and intelligence up front for us, and I was really impressed with the toughness and solid play of Riley Brandt. He just kept working and working, and has proven he can get the job done. He’s been a very reliable player.”
The Nitehawks are much improved with the injection of the veteran presence, but early results indicate that traditional rival Castlegar Rebels with returning veterans Erik Alden, Stuart Walton, and goalie Jordan Gluck may be the early favourite in the Neil Murdoch Division.
“At this point our short term goals are to become a really competitive team and just get the guys playing on the same page and buying into the things we need to do to be successful. It’s too early to say if we’re going to get to that (same) level.’”
The Nitehawks played a last exhibition game against Creston Valley last night, and will open the season with a home-and-home series in Grand Forks on Friday against the Border Bruins at 7:30 p.m. and at home at the Beaver Valley Arena Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The line consisting of former Nitehawk Mason Spear, captain Jordan Wood, and former Trail Smoke Eater Logan Proulx combined for eight points in the Selkirk College Saints’ 8-2 victory over B.V. Sunday, with Proulx scoring twice and assisting on two other markers.