The Castlegar Rebels are on fire after winning their fifth game in a row on Wednesday night and racking up their second win against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks this season.
The Rebels came out strong in the first period, outshooting the Nitehawks 11-7 and ending the period up 3-0.
Goalscorers were John Moeller, Edward Lindsey and Vince Bitonti — all of whom are league leaders this season.
Lindsey is fourth in the league with 39 points so far, Moeller is seventh with 37 points and Bitonti is 11th with 35 points.
“We have some serious talent on our team and it takes so much more than talent. Your top guys have to be hard workers too and you look at Moeller and Vince and Eddy, they just all work very, very hard,” said Bill Rotheisler, coach and general manager for the Rebels. “With their skill and their work ethic and good guys surrounding them, they’re naturally going to reap the benefits and climb up the standings.”
In the second period, the Rebels increased their lead with a goal from Evan Della Paolera, assisted by Jesse Belley and Brady Daniels.
Then in the second half of the period, the Nitehawks’ Dylan Heppler charged at one of the Rebels, who artfully dodged out of the way, leaving Heppler to hit the wall and take a two-minute penalty.
But Rebels’ fans excitement over the dodge was dampened somewhat when the Nitehawks’ Jaxen Gemmell scored an unassisted, short-handed goal seconds later.
Heading into the third period, the Rebels were still up three, but the Nitehawks seemed to be finding their stride.
Beaver Valley’s Aiden Jenner scored an unassisted goal just seconds into the third period, but it was the last goal the Rebels would allow their adversary.
Lindsey widened the Rebels’ lead with a power-play goal and Everett Hicks solidified the lead further with a goal at 9:23.
Though the Nitehawks kept up a good fight, they didn’t find the net again and the Rebels claimed victory, 6-2.
The Rebels are now 2-3 against the Nitehawks this season.
A big part of the Castlegar team’s success so far this year has been an improved defence.
“We’re first in the league in goals-for average, [third] in the league in goals-against average, which puts us first at differential and … — obviously wins and losses are big — but that’s something we take a lot of pride in,” said Rotheisler. “And it’s all the big picture. Last year we were able to get the ball rolling offensively and I thought that defensively our game was pretty weak…. So we started building it and there were some tough concepts that it took a lot of the core players to carry on into this year.”
The team also appeared to take a cautious approach against the Nitehawks during penalty kills — with only one player ever venturing too far into the Beaver Valley zone while the others took up more defensive positions.
“It depends on the situation with who we play,” said Rotheisler. “This game we felt like even though we didn’t give up a goal, we felt we were giving up a little too many chances off the rush, which five-on-four is going to happen, but we just felt like it was little bit too much of a red carpet into our zone so we just changed up our forecheck a little bit, just something we’ve been working on, and it seemed to have a positive effect for the rest of the game.”
Next up, the Rebels will once again face the Nelson Leafs on Saturday night at the Castlegar Complex at 7 p.m.
The Rebels are 1-2 against the Leafs this season and six points behind them in the division standings.
A win on Saturday would help to start closing the gap.
But Nelson is just one team to beat on the Rebels’ road to the top.
“We have a group of teams that we think we’ll have to beat … if we want to go the distance and we acknowledge at one point we were 0-5 against those teams and we’ve looked at the stats and had a pretty in-depth conversation the boys took to heart. We just started working a bit harder on what it took to beat those teams,” said Rotheisler.
“Since then we’ve been pretty strong against them. We know there was quite a big gap with us and Nelson at one point and we just knew that in order to chip away at it wasn’t going to be an overnight thing and still is not going to be an overnight thing.”