Nighthawks Come Up Short to Freeze

By: Ty Dilello – The Niverville Citizen

The Niverville Nighthawks dropped their second straight one-goal game on Sunday night when they fell to the Winnipeg Freeze by a 3–2 score. The Nighthawks now move to a 1–5 record to kick off their inaugural campaign.

Niverville outshot Winnipeg 36 to 21 over the course of the game, but the Freeze managed to capitalize on their chances.

“The Freeze were just relentless from the start of the game and took away our room to make passes and move the puck, and we struggled with that a little bit,” said Nighthawks head coach Kelvin Cech. “And we caught up with them later, but it was too little too late.”

The game began with a scoreless first period. However, in the second frame Winnipeg’s offence woke up, and they scored three goals in quick succession to lead 3–0.

Heading into the third period, Niverville capitalized on an extended power play when Josh Paulhus put the Nighthawks on the board after 30 seconds of play.

Paulhus added his second power play goal of the night with four minutes remaining, but the comeback was not meant to be. For the second game in a row, the Nighthawks simply ran out of time and lost 3–2.

“The five-minute power play at the start of the third period was huge for us to get a little momentum, and I think we found our game in that period,” said Paulus. “So hopefully we can play like that going forward.”

“It’s happened to us a few times now, where we’ve showed that resiliency, trying to come back in the games. And these guys never quit,” added Cech. “But it’s a group of players that have never played with each other before with different lines. Our coaching staff is still trying to gather evidence and see exactly what we have. Every team in this league is so hungry, so we’re trying to find answers, but we know we have work to do.”

Unfortunately, the Nighthawks lost their most important player, starting goaltender Chris Fines, early in the second period due to injury. Newly signed goaltender Scott Thompson came in and did a fine job closing out the game, but to lose Fines is a significant loss for the Nighthawks.

“It’s too early to say how long Fines will be out,” said Cech. “There is some swelling that needs to go down, and then he’ll be re-evaluated on Monday. He’s in good hands with Justin Giesbrecht, our head physiotherapist, who will hopefully help make it a short-term injury.”

In the interim, the Nighthawks will be rolling with Scott Thompson in goal, with either 16-year-old Raiden LeGall or 17-year-old Dylan Leclair backing him up.

The newly signed Thompson is from Dauphin and spent the 2021–22 season playing with the Columbia Valley Rockies of the KIJHL, where he put up an impressive 14–3–0 record with a 2.45 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.

The Nighthawks are back in action on Friday night with a road game against the Selkirk Steelers at 7:30 p.m.

“We’re pretty well structured and organized and in the right spots,” said Cech. “We just have to do a better job of playing inside the equipment and stick-on-puck, stuff like that. Some little details in our game that get lost sometimes. It’s a tough situation, as the guys want to be good so bad so fast. Too much that we kind of squeeze our sticks too tight and forget about the little things, so that’s what we’re going to work on this week to prepare for Thursday night against Selkirk.”