Hawks sweep past Leafs to capture Murdoch Division

Nelson forward Nicholas Wihak drives to the net against ex-Leaf Nolan Percival during Saturday's 4-1 KIJHL playoff victory by the Nitehawks at the NDCC Arena. — Bruce Fuhr, The Nelson Daily
Nelson forward Nicholas Wihak drives to the net against ex-Leaf Nolan Percival during Saturday's 4-1 KIJHL playoff victory by the Nitehawks at the NDCC Arena. — Bruce Fuhr, The Nelson Daily

During the regular season Beaver Valley put together a few lengthy winning streaks en route to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League title.

Those same Nitehawks are at it again.

The Hawks made it a clean sweep through the Murdoch Division Saturday night at the NDCC Arena, dumping the Nelson Leafs 4-1 for the club’s eighth straight playoff victory.

The loss eliminated the Leafs from the 2017 KIJHL Playoffs.

Beaver Valley wins the Murdoch Division for the fourth straight season and now earns a date with the winner of the Kimberley-Creston series in the Kootenay Conference Final.

The Dynamiters currently lead the best-of-seven affair 3-1 after edging the Thunder Cats 3-2 in overtime Saturday in Kimberley.

“We’re just trying to stick to our game, play it game by game and not get to ahead of ourselves,” said Beaver Valley captain Sam Swanson following the post-series handshake with the Leafs.

“We're playing pretty good hockey right now but we still have more left in the tank.”

“It was nice to get this series done early, have a good rest and look forward to the (Kootenay Conference Championship),” Swanson added.

It didn’t take long for the Nitehawks to get it going in Game four. Leading 3-0 in the series thanks to an amazing comeback in overtime during Game two followed by a double-overtime victory Friday in Game three, the players had one thing on their minds and that was eliminating the Nelson Leafs.

Hawks out shot the Leafs 10-3 in the first period, and were full value for a 2-0 lead on goals by Tyler Ghirardosi and Kyle Hope.

Alex Meeker scored on the power play in the final minute of the period to give the Leafs some life.

However, in the second ex-Leaf Nolan Percival restored the two-goal advantage before Jaxen Gemmell gave the Hawks all the goals they would need.

Netminder Tallon Kramer pitched a shutout for the remaining 40 minutes and the Hawks were on their way to the Kootenay Conference Championship.

“It was good for us to finish this series tonight,” Swanson said.

“At this time of the season every team plays with injuries, everybody is banged up but we’ve got to pay this (Leafs) team a lot of respect, they’re banged up and gave us a test but we were able to come out on top.”

Kramer faced only 10 shots in the game as Beaver Valley held a 24-10 advantage.

Billy Gorn, making his first start of the playoffs, took the loss in goal for Nelson.

Despite the season-ending loss, Leafs management has to be happy with the way the year ended.

Nelson was able to grind out three straight wins to close out the regular season to edge past Grand Forks for third place in the Murdoch Division Standings.

The Leafs then pulled off the upset in the Murdoch Semi Final, knocking off Castlegar Rebels in six games before losing a series that may have ended differently had Nelson got a few breaks in Games two and three.

“I told the players the team that was here in November definitely wasn’t the team I saw out on the ice tonight,” said Leaf Head Coach Mario DiBella.

“The team in November certainly couldn’t have knocked off Castlegar in six games and 27 periods of hockey and pushed Beaver Valley in this playoff series.”

“I’m very proud of the group of young men that in that dressing room,” DiBella added.

“They were trouble-free and I have some very fond memories of coaching them this season.”

GAME NOTES: Billy Gorn tasted his first action since January in goal against his former mates. Devin Allen had started the past nine games for Nelson. . . Kyle Hope led the Hawks with three points while Tyler Hartman and Jaxen Gemmell each had a two points. . . .There was another large crowd at the NDCC Arena for Game four, with 780 fans attending. . . .The Conference Finals are expected to start next weekend. Beaver Valley will host the first two games of the best-of-seven series. . . . Game five of the Kimberley-Creston series goes Monday in Creston.

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