The Rebels are a win away from Round Three.
After splitting the first two games (a 6-2 win and 7-6 loss) of the KIJHL’s Neil Murdoch division final in front of the two largest crowds at the Complex this season, Castlegar handed the Beaver Valley Nitehawks their first two home losses of the playoffs, posting 6-3 and 4-3 victories.
The Rebels fired 43 shots at Beaver Valley goaltender Mike Vlanich Monday, but needed five unanswered goals over the final 40 minutes to prevail in Game 3.
Spencer Brodt’s goal 1:26 into the third period would prove to be the game-winner, as the Nitehawks got goals from Daniel Bishop, Keanan Patershuk and Taylor Love on three of their four first period shots to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
Rookie Castlegar defenseman Aaron Brewer scored his second goal of the contest (and second of his KIJHL career) on a heat-seeking one-timer 1:36 into period two, before Trail product Jamie Vlanich leveled the score midway through the middle frame.
Cue the diminutive Alaskan’s match-winner.
Brodt capitalized after a Ryan Aynsley shot rebounded onto his stick, as he pushed the puck past an outstretched Vlanich to give the Rebels their first lead of the game.
Tyler Robinson would score a similar goal later in the frame before defenseman Ryan Reid added an insurance marker when his dump-in took a wacky bounce off the Beaver Valley Arena glass.
Alex Ross stopped 11 shots to register his first victory since a wild 7-6 overtime win in Game 2 against Spokane on Feb. 15.
The following night, Castlegar scored three times with the man advantage, and got a timely deflection from 16 year-old Jesse Knowler to edge the Beaver Valley Nitehawks 4-3 in Game Four of the KIJHL’s Neil Murdoch division final Tuesday night.
After Beaver Valley’s Tyler Collins opened the scoring in the game’s opening minute, Castlegar replied with markers by Aynsley and Stuart Walton to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
Taylor Anderson would add to Castlegar’s lead on another power-play midway through the second period, taking a rebound off the end boards and lifting the puck past Nitehawks goalie Zach Perehudoff, who made 22 saves in his first KIJHL playoff start.
That set the stage for Knowler’s winner.
He tipped home a Tyler Jones point shot to give the Rebels a 4-1 lead before the KIJHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player, Ryon Sookro, scored the first of his two goals to cut the lead to 4-2 after fourty minutes.
Sookro scored the only goal of the third period as the Nitehawks pressed Rebels goaltender Ross for an equalizer.
The Montrose product picked up his second consecutive victory, making 11 saves.
The Rebels’ penalty-kill was the difference in Game Four.
Beaver Valley was foiled on nine of 10 power-play attempts, including three two-man advantages, while the Rebels went three for seven in a penalty-filled game.
“Our special teams were a lot better [in Fruitvale] than they were in Game 2,” head coach Steve Junker surmised.
Castlegar could clinch the series Thursday night on home ice as the series shifts to the Complex for Game 5, at 7:30 p.m.
“We have to be simple, get pucks deep and work hard,” Aynsley said, “if we move our feet, things will go well I think.”
“We have a lot of speed up front,” defenceman Erik Alden added, “if we get it past their [defence], then we can just run them down.”
A series victory would set up a third-round match-up against either Fernie or Creston Valley, who as of Wednesday were tied at two games apiece in the best-of-seven Eddie Mountain division final.