Joy and pain were evident Wednesday night in Castlegar, as is the case in all deciding playoff games.
The joy belonged to the home team and its fans following a double-overtime 5-4 win
A curious brand of hockey was played in the first period of game seven in the KIJHL second round series between the host Castlegar Rebels and Beaver Valley Nitehawks. The action was spirited and tentative at the same time with the Rebels holding an 11-7 edge in shots.
The best scoring chance in the opening frame came off the stick of Nitehawk Riley Brandt, all alone near the Rebels’ right point. He had a clear path to the Castlegar net and let go a laser that goaltender Jordan Gluck had to be sharp to contain.
Each team enjoyed one man advantage for minor infractions in the first period.
A large, vocal BV contingent had lots to scream about early in the second as the guests quickly asserted themselves. Not quite two minutes into the period BV opened the scoring when Keenan Patershuk (from Danny Vlanich and Michael Bell) jammed the puck past Gluck. Less than two minutes later Ryan Edwards made it 2-0, fed by Ryan Edwards and Bell with his second point of the night.
A sense of fear and disappointment was gripping the hometown faithful through much of the second as Beaver Valley appeared to step comfortably into a dominant role. They had an extra step on the Rebels and looked able and confident to ride out the game and the series.
The home crowd showed what it could deliver in the frenzy department, however, as the Rebels got on the scoreboard with under two minutes to go before the end of the period. A not-too-dangerous looking rush led to the opener. Travis Wellman, behind the net, found Stu Walton who pounded it home from the deep slot. The jubilation cranked up as a falling Jamie Vlanich banged in the equalizer at 19:33, assisted by Diego Bartlett and Hunter Jenerou.
Shot totals after two: 24-13 in favour of the Rebels.
A more confident Rebels team took to the ice for the third but after just a few moments the guests wrestled back the momentum, scoring a pair before four minutes had elapsed – Dallas Calvin beating Gluck high to the glove side corner (Edwards), and Arie Postmus from the point hungry Edwards.
Going tit-tit for tat-tat, the Rebels would then score the next two, generating playoff hockey hysteria at its best.
The time was 10:03 and a Jamie Vlanich bomb from the point was tipped in by an alert Hunter Jenerou.
With a much stouter physical game being played, the action was gripping with good saves being made by Gluck and his Beaver Valley counterpart Jarrod Schamerhorn.
The Nitehawk net minder, though, would be beaten by a Travis Wellman shot from just inside the blue line that went in off Brenden Heinrich lurking near the crease.
Furious action would see the teams through the balance of regulation then the first OT period. Wellman, driving hard to the net with about three seconds to go had a beautiful chance to end it in the first overtime frame only to be denied by Schamerhorn.
“I couldn’t feel better,” said Rebels’ coach Steve Junker after some post-game time in the dressing room. He then addressed the sensation of succeeding following a 5-0 game six loss in Fruitvale.
“We try not to get too high or too low,” he said. “Whether you lose 1-0 or 10-0… we tried to put it behind us. It was just a loss. We knew there weren’t going to be any games that were easy against Beaver Valley.”
Junker expressed respect for the Nitehawks, noting the strong regular season and playoff competition between the well-matched teams over the past years, and then focused on his own group.
“Hats off to our guys for never saying die. We hadn’t been coming back in this series when we got down. We kind of lost our mojo a little bit. But tonight we just wouldn’t quit.”
Not wanting to put the cart before the horse, Junker said he had hardly given a thought to what might be in store following game seven, but he did say he and his players are very excited about meeting the Golden Rockets in round three.
Castlegar player of the game Diego Bartlett, sporting the revered red hard hat following the game, deflected kudos in a post game interview.
“I can’t even put it into words,” he said of the game winner. “It’s an amazing feeling but I can’t take all the credit. The team played great, came back twice from two nothing. And you know, we just didn’t give up. We battled to the last goal and we’re very excited.”
As for what now lies in front of the team, Bartlett concluded, “We’ve got to stick to what we’re doing… and you know what? We’re ready.”
Coach Terry Jones, understandably low key, was forthcoming with post-game comments for Trail Times Sports Editor Jim Bailey.
“I thought we left it all out there. We had two-goal leads twice and I thought we let the momentum get away from us.”
Jones continued, “I am disappointed. I thought we were the better team to be honest with you. A big part of the series we dominated, even tonight when we got into overtime I thought we carried overtime play, the fact that there weren’t any penalties called I felt was a little bit ridiculous . . . but ultimately they (Castlegar) played hard and they’ve got a group of guys that have good character, and work hard and they found a way to be successful.”