By: Ty Dilello – The Niverville Citizen
The first regular season game in Niverville Nighthawks franchise history is officially in the books. It was a hard-fought game, but in the end the Steinbach Pistons were too strong and held on for a 6–4 win over Niverville.
Stonewall native Chris Fines got the start in goal for Niverville and put up an admirable showing, making 32 saves on the night.
Jumping on perhaps some nerves on the Nighthawks side of things, Steinbach came out to a 2–0 lead after the first period. They doubled their lead to 4–0 early in the second period, before Niverville finally got on the board.
Brendan Bottem scored the first goal for the Nighthawks when he tucked in a second period goal to cut the deficit to 4–1.
“The nerves were pretty high to start with, considering a lot of our team has never played a Junior A game yet,” said Bottem. “But it was definitely a really cool experience to get the first one in franchise history, and I got to keep the puck.”
Niverville’s Carter Spirig scored with 15 seconds remaining in the second period to make it 4–2 and give the club some much-needed momentum heading into the final frame.
The Pistons quickly showed why they are one of the MJHL’s finest teams early in the third period as they scored another pair of goals to extend the lead to 6–2.
The Nighthawks answered late in the third with goals by Brendan Kerr and Gavin Gunderson, but it was too late to mount a comeback, and the Pistons held on for the 6–4 win.
Carter Spirig earned the third star of the game honours for his late second period goal.
“Steinbach is a good program which we have a lot of respect for,” said Nighthawks head coach Kelvin Cech. “There are no easy nights in this league. There were a lot of ups and downs in the game, and ultimately we need to go back to work and be better.”
Niverville and Steinbach meet up again tonight in the Nighthawks’ highly anticipated home opener. The fun gets underway at 5:00 p.m. at the CRRC.
“I’m really excited for the home opener and to be able to play in front of our fans for the first time this year,” said Bottem. “It’s going to be a wonderful evening for everyone in Niverville, and we’re all so pumped for it.”
For the Nighthawks, it will be Chris Fines getting the start in goal for the second night in a row.
“Fines was great last night,” said Cech. “He stepped into the net and calmed us down back there. He’s going again today, and he’s looking forward to building on his game along with the rest of the guys.”