Nitehawks silence Thunder Cats, win four straight

Beaver Valley Nitehawks forward Bradley Ross scored three goals and Saran Virdee stopped 25 shots in a 7-4 win over the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on Saturday, one night removed from a Paul Leroux hat trick in a 4-2 victory over the Grand Forks Border Bruins on Friday.

The Hawks are undefeated since securing coach Terry Jones’ 1,000th win with a 5-3 victory over the Revelstoke Grizzlies on Nov. 30, winning four straight.

“We’re getting more consistent all the time,” said Nitehawks coach Terry Jones. “There were parts of the game we played really well, and we still have a few spots to shore up, but it was a great weekend and it was good to get four in a row now.”

It was also the Nitehawks first home game since setting the milestone, and the KIJHL recognized both Jones and trainer Tom Meakes with a pregame ceremony and presentation from KI exec Larry Martel and Kathy Merkel. Jones also received a special note of congratulations from head of BC Hockey Barry Petrachenko and former Jr. Smoke Eater coach Tom Renney, the CEO of Hockey Canada.

“It is nice, but it’s also nice to kind of cap everything and now just focus on the team and the guys and getting this group of guys moving forward,” said Jones. “I appreciate everything that’s happened, but it’s time to focus on the team.”

Leroux scored the game winner against the Cats, one-timing a pass from Ryan Crisalli past Cats goalie Sam Burford to give B.V. a 5-3 lead with 12 seconds remaining in the second period.

“Crisalli has been working his butt off for me getting me the puck out there, and it was just a good win back to the point, a quick shot, and (Kyle) Geunter was tying it up in front, and they managed to get it on net,” said Leroux.

The goal was Leroux’s third point of the night and 38th of the season to lead all Nitehawks in scoring.

“Paul is really starting to show what kind of player he is and what a great weekend he had,” said Jones. “He was dominant all over the ice last night (Friday) and again tonight too. A game-changer play on the one goal at the end of the period.”

The win boosts the 14-10-2-2 Hawks’ cushion to six points over third place Spokane. B.V. trails the Nelson Leafs by seven points, following the Leafs 9-2 drubbing of Columbia Valley Rockies on Saturday.

“I think a lot of the guys are just buying into what Terry has been teaching over the past couple weeks here, just doing the little things right, keeping it simple and not trying to do too much out there and just working as a unit,” said Leroux.

Ross opened the scoring jumping on his own rebound, turning and firing it past Burford at 14:10 of the first. But Creston forward Carson Small scored a shorthanded goal two minutes later to tie it and Jordan Wood put the visitors up 2-1 with 4:53 to go in the first.

However, B.V. responded when defenceman Jesse Ihas wired a point shot through traffic to tie the game for his second of the season with 2:37 left in the first. The Hawks dominated the opening frame, outshooting Creston 15-9, but were deadlocked in a 2-2 tie.

Ross put the Hawks up for good just 41 seconds into the second finishing a quick centring pass from Brock Wallace, and Ryan Crisalli made it 4-2 at 11:01 breaking down the right side and firing a wrist shot top shelf over the blocker of Burford. Creston’s recent acquisition, Tail Thompson, tallied one for the Thunder Cats to cut the lead to 4-3 at 3:15, but Leroux’s game-winner made it 5-3 late in the second.

Ross completed the hat trick, burying his 14th of the season with a wicked snap shot top corner at 15:33 of the third for a 6-3 lead. Small tallied another for the T-Cats on a power play at 5:12, but an empty netter from Crisalli iced it for the Hawks.

With Hawks forwards Jared Stocks suspended, Simon Nemethy still on the mend, and Michael Hagen called up as an AP for the Trail Smoke Eaters on the weekend, the Hawks mobilized defencemen Kody Stewart and Kyle Guenter to the forward position and both performed well.

“Stewart and Guenter did an excellent job playing forward, really simple, but really did a great job of angling and finishing, and playing simple hockey,” said Jones.

B.V. outshot Creston 43-29, were 0-for-5 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill. Ross was named the Nitehawks game star, while Small earned the honour for Creston.

On Friday, B.V. doubled up the Grand Forks Border Bruins 4-2 in another physical match up in the Boundary city.

Leroux scored two shorthanded goals in the first period, along with a tally from Kevin Duguid in his Nitehawks debut, for a 3-0 B.V. lead. Sidney Cruz and Josh Garlough-Bell cut the lead to 3-2 in period two, but Leroux completed his hat trick at 13:13 of the third for the 4-2 final.

“To come out and get those goals, was huge for me confidence wise,” added Leroux. “But the whole team was working hard out there, and it was really a team win.”

The Nitehawks acquired Duguid from the Fernie Ghostriders on Dec. 1.

Noah Decottignies was impressive in the Nitehawks net, as the Border Bruins outshot B.V. 39-28 and went 0-for-8 on the power play, while the Hawks were 0-for-3. Leroux and Cruz were the game stars.

The Nitehawks travel to Fernie to play the Ghostriders on Friday, and return to the B.V. Arena for a division tilt against the Spokane Braves at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.