Ty Dilello – The Niverville Citizen
The Niverville Nighthawks earned possibly their biggest win of the season on Wednesday evening on the road as they dispatched the league-leading Portage Terriers 3–2 in a shootout.
With the win, the Nighthawks have officially clinched the fourth and final playoff spot in the MJHL’s East Division. They will start the postseason with a first round matchup against Portage beginning next week.
Niverville had a solid start for the first time in a couple of games as they got on the board late in the first period with a goal from captain Brett Tataryn. Portage then scored twice in the second period to take the lead, but the Nighthawks didn’t falter. Ty Kennett scored the tying goal late in the period.
The third period was scoreless, which sent the game to overtime. Three-on-three overtime also solved nothing, and so the game headed to a shootout.
Braden Panzer scored the game-winning shootout goal.
Chris Fines turned in his finest performance of the season, making 38 saves in the Nighthawks’ net for the win.
“It was a good hockey game with chances back and forth,” said Nighthawks head coach Kelvin Cech. “We scored a cool short-handed goal, which is something we’ve been trying to do for a while now. It was cool for Chris Fines to be a big part of a win against his former team, as he was just excellent. So it was a fun game and a cool result in the end to beat Portage.”
“This game was definitely one of my best this year,” added Chris Fines. “It felt really good to beat those guys, especially having a bunch of buddies on that team. I feel confident in my game right now. Especially if the guys play as they did in front of me tonight. We have the mentality that we can beat anyone.”
Even more important than knocking off the league-leading Portage Terriers is that the Nighthawks have clinched a playoff berth in the franchise’s inaugural season. It is an achievement not being taken lightly by anyone in the organization.
“I’m thrilled that we are able to go to the playoffs in our first season,” said Cech. “And even further, knowing how much it means to our president, governor, and father figure Clarence Braun. He was pretty emotional when we talked to him after we clinched. For him to be working on this for so long and to hit this milestone, it’s amazing, as he’s a representative of the community for me personally. So I know how much it means to our town. It’s about Niverville. We’re excited and proud of our team, and we’ll see what happens next week in the playoffs.”
The Nighthawks are back in action this weekend at the CRRC with two home games to close out the regular season. The first will take place on Friday at 7:30 p.m. against the Winnipeg Blues, and puck will drop on the second this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. against the Winkler Flyers.
These two games are going to be special, because the Nighthawks will be honouring their billet families and then honouring some award winners on the team.
“Everyone on the team is very excited to head into the playoffs,” said Fines. “It is my first time and many of ours. We feel we can do some damage if we bring the same energy we brought tonight. And we can’t wait to see the crowd that Niverville produces!”