Next up, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks

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first_imgWhile the Beaver Valley Nitehawks have cruised along this Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season over nice smooth newly laid pavement, the Nelson Leafs have hit almost every pothole along the way to a third-place finish in the Murdoch Division.However, despite the Hawks finishing with 17 more wins and 33 points better in the Murdoch standing than the Leafs, both teams enter Tuesday opening game of the best-of-seven series on even terms.That’s right, when the starting pistol goes off at 7 p.m. in the Fruitvale Arena it’s open season on which team will advance to the Kootenay Conference Championship.“We’ve had tight games with them all year but I believe we need to adopt the same game plan as we did against Castlegar . . . continue our physicality, our defense-first hockey and then capitalize on our chances,” said Leaf veteran forward Dale Howell after Nelson posted the 4-2 series upset of the Castlegar Rebels — a team that also finished well ahead of the Green and White during the regular season.Most experts have the Nitehawks waltzing through this series just like the KIJHL regular season champs disposed of the Grand Forks Border Bruins in the first round of the playoffs — in straight games.However, those same experts probably also penciled in a Beaver Valley-Castlegar Murdoch Final in their KIJHL pool.“I think we have play with composure,” said Leaf head coach Mario DiBella when asked about the Nitehawks.“We have to get pucks to the net and we need to have traffic in front of their goaltender.”Nelson managed to take two games from the Hawks this season — one of the games coming in overtime.However, a quirk in the schedule saw the teams play only twice since Christmas with both games decided by a single goal and the Leafs struggling to put a complete roster together. “We went through some key injuries earlier in the season but it seemed like everything kind of lined up as the season ended with everyone getting healthy and back into the lineup,” said Howell, leading a balanced Leafs scoring attack with six points.“That’s been a big difference for us having a full lineup with everyone able to play to our full capabilities.”DiBella said the Leafs are fairly healthy following the Castlegar series.“We’ve got 22 guys eager to get started on the next series,” he said.“We’ve got a few days off now. We’ll practice Monday and get started Tuesday and I think that we’re in good shape to give Beaver Valley a run.”Facing the KIJHL best goalie will be a test for LeafsThere haven’t been many nights when Tallon Kramer has not left the ice a winner for the Nitehawks after starting the game.Similar to how Tyson Brower dominated the crease when the Kimberley Dynamiters won the KIJHL title in 2015, Kramer has owned opposing shooters, posting a league high 28 wins during the regular season and four more in the playoffs.To make matters worse, the Grande Prairie native has lowered his regular season goal average from 1.81 to 1.75 in the playoffs.“(Tallon Kramer) is a premier goalie in the league and we have to show him that we’re prepared to go hard to the net and earn our opportunities,” DiBella said.Nelson has a pretty good goalie of their own heading to the net to open the series Tuesday.Devin Allen, finishing the season with a 3.47 goal average, has put up some pretty good numbers of late, allowing two goals in three games — plus two posting two 1-0 shutouts — as Nelson rallied from a 2-1 deficit against Castlegar.Allen lowered his goal average to 2.04 in the playoffs.last_img

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