By Ty Dilello, Niverville Citizen
Photo cred: Scott Stroh
The fans at the CRRC were in for an offensive treat on Friday night as the hometown Niverville Nighthawks outscored the Winnipeg Blues 7–5 to win their second straight game. With the win, the Nighthawks improve to 10–9–1, lifting them once again above .500 on the season.
The win also lifts the Nighthawks seven points ahead of the Blues to strengthen their fourth-place position in the standings.
Niverville found their offence right away, scoring two goals in the game’s opening three minutes. Winnipeg got one back at the end of the first period to cut the deficit to 2–1.
The two teams traded goals early in the second period, before the Nighthawks reasserted their lead with another goal in the dying moments of the second period.
The play really opened in the third period, and the Nighthawks’ fourth line was able to capitalize and poke home some loose pucks. Niverville led 7–3 late in the period, and although the Blues were able to score twice in the final few minutes, there would be no fairy-tale comeback for them.
Ty Kennett led the way on the night with two goals for the Nighthawks, while other goals were scored by Brendan Bottem, Hayden Wheddon, Carter Spirig, Merik Boles, and Bryce Warkentine.
“We got pucks out of our zone when we needed to and on the opposing net, and things happened,” said Kennett. “It felt good to produce for the team and help us get a win.”
Chris Fines made 26 saves on 31 shots in goal for the win.
“That’s Junior A hockey, that no lead is ever safe, as we were up 7–3 and held on to win 7–5,” said Nighthawks head coach Kelvin Cech. “It was a bit of a buzzkill, but we came out in the third period and defended each other and defended our goalie. We’re really tired of seeing our goalie get bumped, so I was proud of the guys for how they responded to that.”
One of the team’s unsung heroes is defenceman Ethan Kelly, who doesn’t get on the scoresheet much but is an excellent shutdown defenceman and stuck up for his team by fighting an opposing forward.
“We’re a resilient team, and Ethan Kelly is a huge part of that,” added Cech. “He assisted on Ty’s first goal tonight. He plays tough, and that’s part of the game to drop the mitts. He’s a heck of a defender.”
Coach Cech was especially happy for his team’s depth scoring, as all four forward lines are capable of putting the puck in the net.
“Our top line has done such a good job all year carrying the mail, and tonight the pucks weren’t going in for them,” Cech said. “And our power play struggled too. So to get Ty Kennett, Warkentine, and Boles scoring. It was enormous for us.”
The Nighthawks are off until November 18, when they return to the CRRC to play the Selkirk Steelers (7:30 p.m.). In the meantime, a good chunk of the team is off to Portage la Prairie on November 15–16 to participate in the MJHL Top Prospects Showcase.
The event will feature six teams selected from MJHL rosters (two 18U and four 20U) who are considered top prospects for advancement. Each team will partake in a practice and play two full games during this high-performance event in front of the many scouts from the NHL, NCAA, WHL, and U Sports confirmed to be in attendance.
“The guys that are going are honoured to be part of it,” said Cech. “We’re a deep team, so lots of players on our team deserve to go, and the ones who aren’t going will still support their teammates. It should be a fun event.”