The 67th game and 56th win of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks season was the biggest one to date as B.V. hoisted the Cyclone Taylor Cup trophy for the fourth time in their 35-year history after beating Campbell River 6-2 on Sunday in Creston.
“It was unbelievable,” said head coach and GM Terry Jones. “So much work that goes into it and pretty unbelievable. It’s just so hard, so competitive. Guys have to play through injury, and I thought that every single guy made a contribution to our team and to winning, it’s just fantastic.”
Nitehawks forward Dylan Heppler scored twice and Tallon Kramer stopped 26 shots in net as the Hawks fell behind early, but stormed back to retake the lead and dominate the Storm in the closing two periods.
“We got behind early, and we didn’t panic,” said Jones. “Both times when we gave up the second goal as well, both times we could have panicked but we responded with quick goals and the two goals by (Dylan) Heppler in the first period were just big goals.”
Hawks forward Blake Sidoni was the tournament MVP, scoring the winning goal on Storm starting goalie Chris Smith for a 3-2 Nitehawks lead with 2:08 to play in the first period.
The winning goal capped off an exciting round-robin tournament that saw all four teams go into the third and final game on Saturday with a 1-1 record. The VIJHL Storm beat out the PJHL’s Aldergrove Kodiaks, 2-1 in overtime, while the KIJHL Nitehawks beat the host Creston Valley Thunder Cats, 6-2, on Saturday on the strength of a hat trick from Kyle Hope to advance to Sunday’s final.
The Hawks started the tournament strong with a 6-0 shut out of Campbell River on Thursday, but lost their second match 5-3 to Aldergrove on Friday.
Campbell River got off to a fast start with Pearce Messer beating Kramer 28 seconds into the first period for a 1-0 lead. The Hawks answered at 3:44 when Heppler notched his first of the night on a setup from Nolan Percival and Sidoni. The Storm reclaimed the lead just over a minute later when Carter Hikichi netted a shorthanded marker, but the Hawks Heppler tied it 2-2 at 10:29, and Sidoni’s second goal of the tournament put the Hawks up for good.
Tyler Ghirardosi fed Karsten Jang and the Hawks d-man sniped one under Smith’s arm to make it 4-2, 4:39 into the second period. Five minutes later, Yuris head-manned the puck to Ghirardosi, who saucered a pass to Bradley Ross, and the Trail native snapped it by Smith for a 5-2 Hawks lead.
A smothering Nitehawks forecheck stole the Storm’s thunder in the final two frames. When the Storm did break through, Kramer came up big, making a sprawling pad save on former Smoke Eater Sheldon Brett at the edge of the crease to close out the second period, and robbing Aaron Brewer with the glove late in the final stanza. Percival added an empty netter in the final minute to complete the scoring for the Hawks.
The Hawks held the Storm to just eight shots in the third period, outshooting Campbell River 32-28 with Heppler being named player of the game, and Sidoni earning the MVP honour for the tournament with two goals and four assists.
Beaver Valley will look for its second Keystone Cup as they get set to hit the pavement today for the Western Canadian championship in Ardborg, Man. The quest for the Keystone starts on Thursday and wraps up on Monday.
“We’re just really excited to win our last game of the year, and really proud of the guys, they competed like champions and my staff was amazing, the coaching staff did a great job,” added Jones. “Pretty exciting day for all the Nitehawk family.”
In Sunday afternoon’s bronze medal game, the Thunder Cats defeated Aldergrove 3-0.