Despite a 13-2 blowout to start the series, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks needed everything they could muster to get past the Nelson Leafs in their Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Neil Murdoch Division semifinal
The Nitehawks closed the book on Leafs’ season last night with a 4-2 victory in Game 7 on home ice.
Beaver Valley now faces the Castlegar Rebels in the Murdoch Division final. That series is scheduled to begin Friday night in Castlegar. Game 2 has been penciled in for Saturday. The series shifts to the Beaver Valley Arena next Monday and Tuesday.
The Rebels, who topped the division standings in the regular season, dispatched the Spokane Braves in its quarter-final four games to one.
It didn’t come quite that easy for the Nitehawks who saw a 2-0 series lead disappear after a pair of weekend losses in Nelson. Then Tuesday a two-goal third-period lead in Game 6 also went up in smoke.
And true to the pattern of the series, an early Nitehawks’ lead last night didn’t stand up against the resilient Leafs.
Beaver Valley held a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Tyler Collins, on the power play, and Colton Donselaar. But Nelson stayed within reach when Gavin Currie potted his first of two in the final minutes of the opening frame.
Two minutes into the second period Beaver Valley notched the goal that would stand as the winner. Brantley Schapansky tipped in Austin Sture’s point shot to regain the Hawks’ two-goal edge.
But once again the Leafs came back.
Despite being bottled up from prolonged stretches, the Leafs struck with eight minutes left in the middle stanza.
Currie potted his second goal of the game on a nice breakout initiated by Taylor O’Neil with eight minutes to play in the period.
O’Neil got the puck out of the Nelson zone and past the Beaver Valley defender to send Marcus Dahl and Currie on a two-on-one which the Leafs’ veteran finished off to make it a one-goal game with one period to play.
That set the stage for a frantic period, which had the Leafs buzzing around the Hawks’ net at times.
Perhaps the save of the series came seven minutes into the final period when Beaver Valley’s Derek Lashuk blindly threw the puck up the middle of his zone right on to the stick of Nelson’s Evan Moir.
All alone, Moir aimed for a corner only to have Hawks’ goalie Mike Vlanich kick out the left pad for the huge save that kept his team’s precarious lead.
The final few minutes saw Beaver Valley take long shots at the vacant Leafs’ net before Ryon Sookro finally hit the mark to seal the win and the series.
The game marked the second year in a row the two teams went to a Game 7 in the opening round. Last year, Nelson emerged with a 3-2 win in the deciding game. This year the Nitehawks evened the score.