After winning all three of their weekend games, the Castlegar Rebels were second in their division and riding a four-game streak.
Headed into Friday night’s game the Castlegar Rebels were 0-3 against the Beaver Valley Nighthawks this season — last year’s league champions — but by the end of the night, the home team had outplayed the champs.
The Rebels started out strong in the first period — outshooting the Nighthawks 15-4 — but they weren’t able to find the net.
In the second period, the Nighthawks got a powerplay opportunity after Evan Della Paolera was sent to the penalty box for slashing and Karsten Jang, assisted by Adam Pipe and Evan Gorman, scored the first goal of the game.
But soon after the Rebels were on the powerplay, thanks to a roughing call against the Nighthawk’s Dylan Heppler, and Brandon Costa, assisted by John Moeller and Edward Lindsey, was quick to tie things up for the Rebels.
The Nighthawks did their best to battle back in the third, but the Rebels’ Chase Daniels scored an unassisted goal early in the period and held off their opponent’s best efforts until the end, winning the game 2-1.
“I thought we outplayed them,” said Rebels coach and general manager Bill Rotheisler following the game. “It was a tight game on the scoreboard, but I thought we controlled the game for the … vast majority.”
In the end, the Rebels also outshot the Nighthawks 33-19.
Rotheisler said getting more shots on goal is something the team has been working on.
“We tended to be a little too cute I think at the beginning of the year and probably didn’t take enough opportunities, so now going into the game we didn’t want to miss out on any shots,” he said.
Last season the Rebels finished 1-6 against the Nighthawks.
Asked if he had any specific strategy for taking on the team this year, Rotheisler said, “I don’t think we have a specific strategy just for them. We try to play our game, which sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. You go through some video of them, so some minor tweaks, but overall 95 per cent of your foundation is just on how well you’re playing. And so I just think we’re a better and more mature team than we were last year.”
Hot off their win against Beaver Valley, the Rebels then defeated the Nelson Leafs for the first time this season on Saturday.
Team captain Vince Bitonti scored the first goal for the Rebels early in the first period, assisted by Everett Hicks, but Nelson’s Nicholas Wihak soon responded, tying things up.
Then in the second, Chris Breese also scored early, assisted by Shawn Campbell and Bitonti, putting the Rebels back in the lead. From there the Rebels went on to score two more goals in the second: the first scored by John Moeller, assisted by Andrew Petten and Hicks, and the second scored by Jordan Wood, assisted by Breese.
Moeller scored the only goal in the third, assisted by Hicks and Reid Wilson, and the Rebels claimed their first win of the season against the Leafs, 5-1.
“We came out strong and then we were stronger than them the whole game,” said Parker Hickey, assistant general manager.
That puts the Rebels 1-2 against the Leafs this season.
Then on Sunday, the Rebels shut out the Golden Rockets 10-0, outplaying them and outshooting them 51-11.
With over six minutes left in the first, the Rebels were already up four goals — scored by Bitonti, Chase Daniels, Jesse Beiley and Brady Daniels.
Things slowed down in the second, where Breese scored the only goal of the period.
Breese then scored a second goal early in the third and Chase Daniels scored a goal at 7:48, which might have been the killing blow for Rockets’ goalie Calum Humble, because it set off a chain of goals within minutes of each other, with Hicks and Edward Lindsey both finding the net.
Not about to slow down, the Rebels ended the game with a goal from Jacob Lindsey at 0:01.
“We were happy about the 10 goals, but I think we were more happy about the zero that they go against us,” said Hickey.
The Rebels are 2-1 against the Rockets this season, but more importantly, the win pushed them past Beaver Valley in the standings, making them second in the Neil Murdoch Division and three points away from the Leafs, who are first.
“The goal is obviously first and we have a lot of games against Nelson going forward that we’ll have to win to overtake that, but passing BV was the goal this weekend and we did that so we’re happy,” Hickey said on Sunday.
He was optimistic about the Rebels ability to play strong against the Leafs and Nighthawks.
“We’ve just got to keep playing as well as we know we can play. I think today was a big step. Often when we play teams that we feel aren’t as strong, we play down to their level or with the Leafs we slow down with them, but if we just keep playing like we know we can play then we know we can be the best team,” Hickey said.
The Rebels are 16-7-0-1-0 for the season and have played 24 games, whereas the Leafs are 19-4-1-0-1 and have played 25.
At press time the Rebels were set to face the Nighthawks once more on Wednesday night.
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The Rebels will also face the Leafs on Saturday at the Castlegar Complex at 7 p.m.