Justin Niminiken tucked home a backhander at 17:52 of the third period to break a 3-3 deadlock to put Beaver Valley through to Round Three of the KIJHL playoffs for the first time in four years.
The 20 year-old saw an opening low on Castlegar Rebels goaltender Jordan Gluck to score his fifth goal of the post-season (and unarguably the most important goal for the Nitehawks in these playoffs so far), and send the Nitehawk supporters at a jam-packed Beaver Valley Arena into a frenzy.
Ryan Edwards also scored twice for Beaver Valley, including a late empty-net marker, while Castlegar, who staked themselves to a 2-0 first-period lead for the second time in as many games, got a pair from overager Tyler Robinson.
Beaver Valley goaltender Mike Vlanich was named the first star, and for good reason. The 19 year-old made two humongous saves in the first period (one in the opening 15 seconds), then slid right to left midway through period three to halt a Rebels 3-on-1.
Hats off to the Castlegar Rebels, whose ability to battle back in Games 5 and 6 made this series (and this game) one for the ages. Head coach Steve Junker had a much younger squad than the one that went to the league final a year ago, but got the most out of his players each and every night.
The Rebels will graduate three players as well who deserve recognition. Anthony Delong and Robinson both spent three years in Castlegar silks (Delong's time of course interjected by a season in the BCHL with Williams Lake); both were clutch performers and hard workers at both ends of the ice. Scott Morisseau leaves the KIJHL with a whopping 297 career regular season points with the Rebels, Nitehawks and Ghostriders. The two-time KIJHL scoring champ will leave a lasting legacy on this team and this league.
Beaver Valley moves on to face the Fernie Ghostriders in the Kootenay Conference championship, set to get underway Saturday in Fruitvale. The tentative schedule is as follows:
Sat. Mar. 17: Fernie @ Beaver Valley, 7:30 PM
Sun. Mar. 18: Fernie @ Beaver Valley, 7:30 PM
Tue. Mar. 20: Beaver Valley @ Fernie, 6:30 PM
Wed. Mar. 21: Beaver Valley @ Fernie, 6:30 PM
Fri. Mar. 23: Fernie @ Beaver Valley, 7:30 PM*
Sat. Mar. 24: Beaver Valley @ Fernie, 6:30 PM*
Mon. Mar. 26: Fernie @ Beaver Valley, 7:00 PM*
* - if necessary, please note all times are PACIFIC.
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