Nitehawks clinch third straight Neil Murdoch Division title

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It may have gone largely unnoticed but the Beaver Valley Nitehawks clinched the Neil Murdoch Division title last week in a 7-4 victory over the Castlegar Rebels on Jan. 15. 

The Hawks are the first team in the KIJHL to lock up their division title, and stretched their winning streak to 10 games on Saturday against the Columbia Valley Rockies at the B.V. Arena. McKoy Hauk netted the winner and Tyler Ghirardosi had a three-point night as the Beaver Valley Nitehawks skated to a 6-3 victory over the Rockies.

“We knew they were a hard working team, and we knew that they were a physical team, I just don’t think we were ready to respond, and we didn’t have an answer for them early on,” said Cominotto.

After pitching in with four assists in Sunday’s win over Castlegar, the Hawks’ Hauk scored his 11th of the season on the power play taking a pass from Tyler Hartman and blasting a point shot that launched the water bottle from the top of the net for a 4-2 B.V. lead.

“It was a pretty nice pass from number 21, Hartman, and it just went my way tonight,” said Hauk. “Our team’s been playing unreal lately. Our dump and chase, and forecheck is pretty good, and everyone is playing pretty well together.”

Tyler Bordt put the Rockies on the board four minutes into the match, as the Rockies came out fast and hard. The Rockies’ pace and physicality combined with five straight B.V. penalties initially set the Hawks back on their heels, and kept the momentum in C.V.’s favour as the Rockies outshot the Hawks 11-8 and took a 1-0 lead into the second period.

“We’re not going to shy away from a physical game, but obviously we’re a skating team, and we’re not going to go out there and try to run teams over,” said Cominotto. “But we need to be able to respond when teams come in and try to be aggressive with us, and I think we did a pretty good job of that for the most part.”

B.V. regained its footing when Nolan Percival’s wrist shot from the top of the circle found its way through traffic to tie it at 18:05 of the second period.

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C.V.’s Colby Sherlock came right back and beat Hawks goalie Tallon Kramer five hole to give the Rockies a 2-1 lead, but B.V.’s Dylan Heppler found Ghirardosi alone in front and the Montrose native made no mistake roofing a quick snapshot top corner to tie it. The Hawks kept the momentum going when Tyler Hartman finished off a beautiful passing play with Dylan Kent to give B.V. the lead for good at 8:45, and two minutes later the 20-year-old Hauk’s point shot on the power play made it 4-2.

The Nitehawks enjoyed a two-man power play late in the period and Blake Sidoni banged in a loose puck on a goalmouth scramble with five seconds left for a 5-2 lead, as the Hawks outshot the Rockies 16-4.

The Nitehawks took a 6-2 lead at 14:43 of the final frame when Jake Yuris’ point shot beat a screened McCreight. Columbia Valley tallied one more on a power play but that was as close as the Eddie Mountain Division team would get as B.V. outshot C.V. 39-31 and went 2-for-6 on the power play.

With just eight games to play in a shortened 47 game schedule for B.V., the 32-4-1-2 Nitehawks sit 23 points up on the second-place Castlegar Rebels, 22-15-0-0, who have 10 games remaining.

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If the playoffs were to start tomorrow, the Nitehawks would play fourth place Grand Forks, while Nelson would take on Castlegar, however, only four points separate the three teams heading into the final games of the season, and, regardless who they face, the Hawks are ready for the challenge.

“We’re calm and we’re confident,” added Hauk. “But we’re not over-confident.”

After a heavy schedule of back-to-back three-game weekends, the Hawks enjoy an extended break before their next match on Sunday in Spokane against the Braves.

“We go from playing six games in 10 days to playing two games in 14. It’s not ideal for us, I know our guys want to play, our coaching staff wants to play,” said Cominotto. “It would have been better if we had a couple of two-game weekends in there, but it’s good to get the rest.”

Hawks notes: The Hawks will be without Devin Ghirardosi for the remainder of the season due to injury, and his status for the playoffs remains uncertain.