Call them the giant killers! For the second time this season, the Niverville Nighthawks have knocked off the first-place Steinbach Pistons, this time with a massive 5–2 win at the CRRC on Friday night. With the win, the Nighthawks stay in fourth place in the MJHL’s East Division with a record of 15–11–1.
An added bonus to the win is that it came on volunteer appreciation night, which meant an even fuller barn than usual at the CRRC.
“Anytime you can get points in this league is special,” says head coach Kelvin Cech. “For us to get a win on a night that’s already special, as we’re honouring all of the volunteers that make this all possible, is quite something.”
Evan Bortis got things started in a big way just a minute into the game with an early goal. However, it was the Pistons who got the next one with a short-handed tally late in the first frame.
Niverville started the second period off with a bang when Ben Whitford scored just 42 seconds into the period. Issac Rentmeester scored a little later in the frame to give the Nighthawks a 3–1 lead heading to the third period.
Steinbach got one back midway through the period to cut the deficit, but from there the Nighthawks played excellent shutdown hockey and didn’t provide the Pistons with any significant scoring opportunities.
Josh Paulhus scored for Niverville with three minutes left, and then Braden Panzer iced the contest with an empty net goal a minute later to give the Nighthawks the 5–2 victory.
Chris Fines was strong in goal for the Nighthawks, as he stopped 21 shots for the win.
“We had four good practice days coming into this game,” said Cech. “We had a game plan, and the guys executed it. We defended well and limited their shots for the majority of the game. That was the key, just playing smart defensively. We were able to bury our chances. And we’re fortunate to get the two points.”
It’s a quick turnaround for the Nighthawks as they meet Steinbach for a hotly anticipated rematch Saturday night on the road. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
“Josh Paulhus has taken the group under his wing and addressed the team after this game that we’re not done,” Cech said. “We’re going to give everything we have into the next game, and as a coach, you love to hear that. So we’re excited to see what they bring to the table tomorrow!”