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B.V. Nitehawks complete comeback with thrilling Game 7 OT victory over Thundercats

Kaleb Percival scored the overtime winner and Connor Stojan stopped 47 shots in 3-2 Nitehawks win

“You just gotta believe!”

It’s what Nitehawks defenceman Kaleb Percival said after scoring the Game 7 overtime goal for a dramatic 3-2 win over the Creston Valley Thundercats on Monday at a packed Hawks Nest.

“We trust each guy in our room and we knew we could do it, and it just shows so much character in our room,” said Percival, B.V.’s assistant captain. “We never gave up, and it’s such a good feeling coming back.”

With the score tied 2-2, the Nitehawks dominated the first 10-minutes of overtime. But Creston killed off a penalty and goalie Parker Forrest stymied the Hawks offence.

Then on an innocent play with just over eight minutes remaining, Nathan Dominici fed Percival at the point. His shot sailed through traffic and beat Forrest high glove side for the 3-2 victory.

“Dominici made a great play to me at the point and I just got my head up for a second and threw it on net and was lucky it went in,” said Percival. “You can’t have doubt in Game 7, you just gotta believe and wait for the moment. I mean it wasn’t a pretty one, but it happened and I am so happy.”

Down 3-games-to-1 in the best-of-7 Neil Murdoch Division final, the Nitehawks rallied winning Games 5 and 6 by scores of 4-0 and 5-1 to force the seventh and deciding match on home ice.

Creston opened the scoring when Luke Chakrabarti batted a rebound past B.V. goalie Connor Stojan at 10:38 of the first period.

But Rossland product Spencer Dixon-Reusz replied when his point shot eluded Forrest with 6:07 to play in the opening frame to tie it at 1-1.

“Giving up the first goal hasn’t always worked out for us this year in the playoffs so when we got down I was a wondering how we were going to respond,” said Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones. “We got that big goal from Spenny who doesn’t score a lot, so when we got that one it really helped us.”

Beaver Valley took a 2-1 lead when Trail product Nathan Dominici stole the puck at the Creston blue line and walked in all alone beating Forrest between the pads 2:28 into the middle frame.

Penalties took their toll on the Nitehawks in the second. Down two men for 26 seconds, Stojan made another game-saving glove save off a backdoor pass midway through the period. But on the same powerplay, Creston sniper Blake Anderson tallied his 10th of the playoff on a deflection with 8:47 left in the period to tie the game at 2-2.

Creston outshot B.V. 18-11 in the period, but a more disciplined Nitehawks team came out hungry in the third. This time it was Forrest who came up big in the Thundercats net forcing the extra frame.

Nitehawks fans would have liked to see it wrapped up in regulation given the uncertainty of sudden death, but Jones said he was confident heading into overtime.

“It’s a process and you hope the guys are prepared and I think that these experiences have helped,” said Jones. “We have been playing close games all year long and it’s another one that we did tonight. I’m just excited for the guys.”

Creston outshot B.V. 49-46 and went 1-for-4 on the power play, while the Hawks were 0-for-4.

No series is ever easy, but this one was unique. B.V. was playing a crossover team from the Eddie Mountain division that already knocked off number-1 seed Grand Forks Border Bruins. The Hawks then bounced back from a devastating triple-overtime loss in Game 4 that put the Nitehawks on the brink of elimination.

“When you get down 3-1 it is hard because there’s no opportunity for a misstep you really have to be sharp,” said Jones. “We really go through Conner and he’s such an easy going, even keel guy but he got fired up tonight after we gave up that second goal.

“So I think the guys kicked in a little extra, but it was a tough battle against a bunch of really character players on the Creston team.”

Beaver Valley will now face the Kimberley Dynamiters in the Kootenay Conference final. The Dynamiters came back from being down 3-0 in the Eddie Mountain Division final series, winning four straight against the Fernie Ghostriders including a 1-0 victory in Game 7 on Monday.

When asked if the Hawks coaching staff had a game plan for the Conference final against Kimberley, Jones replied: “We are just going to enjoy this one for a little time, and then we are going to look at the video. We watched a bit of the series, and obviously they made a big comeback as well.

“There’s a lot of character on both teams and they haven’t given up a lot of goals all year so we are just going to have to battle and play our game,” said Jones.

The best-of-seven Kootenay Conference final series starts in Kimberley Friday and Saturday (March 17 and 18) at 7 p.m. M.T. and will move to the B.V. Arena in Fruitvale on Tuesday and Wednesday (March 21-22) for Games 3 and 4 with the puck drop at 7 p.m.

Read: Nitehawks roll over Thundercats, force Game 7

Jim Bailey

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