Rebuilding the Nitehawks

The 2021-22 Beaver Valley Nitehawks are built on local talent.

That was the organization’s focus for this Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season.

Of their 23 players, only seven are not local. Terry Jones, Head Coach and General Manager of the Nitehawks, made 100 calls over the summer to players. 

The only non-local recruit Jones was able to get is goalie Owen Albers, who he says has been outstanding. In five games, Albers has three wins. Brennan Wilson, a Grande Prairie, Alberta native, returned to the Nitehawks after spending the season with the Summerland Steam after being selected  by the organization in the dispersal draft, as well as the Penticton Vees in the BCHL Pod Season. Outgoing General Manager Jamie Cominotto recruited Hunter Burgeson and Austin McLean. Hayden Stocks came to the Nitehawks’ camp because his older brother Jared played for the organization. Other non-locals are Kelton McAuley of La Corey, Alberta and Gavin Tritt of Spokane, Washington. 

“It was a difficult process to recruit players from out of town,” says Jones, who added that Cominotto had done some outside recruiting before stepping away from his position late last Spring. “We were way behind the eight ball in terms of anybody that we called. 

“The focus was on locals because they had to reform our core,” continued Jones. “It’s how our team runs. Whenever we’ve been successful, we’ve had a core of local players who have grown up in our area and watched our teams play. They have watched the (BCHL Trail) Smoke Eaters as well. They have looked at us as a stepping stone on the way to being a Smoke Eater.”

When it came to some of the local players, the Smyth brothers (Joel and Ethan) were affiliate players with the Nitehawks two seasons ago and they knew others such as Judah Makway and Nathan Dominici would be ready to play.

“The midget coaches last year who coached these guys, did a good job,” says Jones. “They did good jobs in preparing them for practice and guys did a great job preparing themselves off the ice in terms of their weight room stuff, getting into great shape. The guys have been hungry to play.”

The Nitehawks began their camp at the end of August, giving them a month of practice before the season started. Kicking off the season with two wins gave the young group confidence and now they have six wins in 10 games and are first in the Neil Murdoch Division.

“We’re not even close yet, we can be a lot better,” says Jones. “The guy have got to continue to work. We’re just excited about the process that we’re playing. We are able to keep working at getting better.”

And Jones will be working with the group of players they have started with as he doesn’t like making several trades. He may add a player or two, but Jones prefers working with the players they have committed to.

“I’ve always felt like trades at our level, they rarely work,” he says. “Generally, if I’m looking to trade another player, it’s because that player isn’t willing to buy into what we’re about or sometimes they are not happy with ice time. When a player is not happy on our team, then  every once in a while you can make a trade.

“We want to have a team and work with them all year,” he continued. “Build a team, build a culture of accountability.”