The regular season for the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) ends next weekend, with playoffs to start the following week.
Over the Feb. 11-13 weekend, the Border Bruins played two of their last three home games of the season, both against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. The Bruins had a string of successes against the Nitehawks in December and the new year, but gave up a couple of games in late January.
On Friday night, the Bruins took an early lead when Ray Warrack flipped the puck past both a defenceman and Hawks goaltender Owen Albers for a lead that held through the first intermission.
The Nitehawks tied the game early in the second when Joel Smyth put the puck top-shelf just seconds after a Beaver Valley power play expired. The game remained tied until late in the second when Brydon Bell picked up the puck in the far corner and played it quickly to Ray Warrack in the slot giving the Bruins captain his second goal of the night.
The Bruins were shorthanded for a significant part of the period, serving six minor penalties. On the power play early in the third period, Ethan Smyth found himself unguarded in the slot and, like his brother 20 minutes earlier, shot high in the net over Justin Dueck’s shoulder to tie the game.
There was no scoring in the five minutes of overtime, so the game went to a shoot-out.
Dueck tracked Hayden Stocks all the way in and made the first stop. Ray Warrack had the first shot for the Bruins, with Owen Albers making a glove save. Hunter Burgeson deflected the puck off Dueck’s left pad and into the net on the Nitehawks second shot. Matteus Reis had the Bruins second shot and while Albers was moving to protect the five-hole he pulled the puck to the right looking for an open side.
A half-second later might have done it, as Albers was able to catch the puck with the tip of his toe to deflect the shot wide. Dueck gloved Beaver Valley’s third shot by Austin McLean, but Albers was able to catch Ollie Morberg’s shot with the stick and the Nitehawks took the extra point from the shootout. The Bruins were able to hold their opponents power play unit to one goal on eleven attempts, but were out-shot by B.V. 62-38.
A scheduling oddity had the Nitehawk squad back in town again Saturday night. Joel Smyth took a double-minor penalty early in the game, giving the Bruins four minutes on the power play, but the Nitehawks kept the Bruins off the board. Hunter Burgeson and Austin McKenzie had the only goals in the first period, giving B.V. a 2-0 lead at the first break.
In the second, the Nitehawks controlled the scoring again with two goals by Nathan Dominici, one on the power play. Another power play goal for Gavin Tritt in the third period gave the Nitehawks a 5-goal lead, but the Bruins were able to close the gap while B.V. sat in the penalty box with a pair of power play goals for Ollie Morberg. Shots in the game were pretty much even, 39-38 favouring B.V.
The Bruins will have played their last home game by the time this edition hits the street, having hosted the Castlegar Rebels on Tuesday night, Feb. 15. They will wind up their season next weekend on the road, visiting Castlegar on Friday night and Nelson on Saturday.
The KIJHL announced a change to the Kootenay playoff format last week, changing the original format announced in October. To reduce the travel distance between the first-place Murdoch team and the last-place Mountain team, the league decided last week to move the Creston Valley Thundercats into the Murdoch division.
That puts the incoming team ahead of Castlegar; the likely first round will now see the Rebels face Nelson instead of Beaver Valley, with the Thundercats facing the Nitehawks instead.