By: Ty Dilello – The Niverville Citizen
The final roster of the first edition of the Niverville Nighthawks has been unveiled. Over the next few days, we will be releasing detailed profiles on each of the players who will take to the ice when the season starts up on Friday, September 16.
In today’s article, we will focus on the second batch of forwards.
Merik Boles (55)
Merik Boles was born and raised close to home in Lorette, Manitoba. He grew up playing for local teams and in the Eastman Selects AAA system for much of his youth.
The 17-year-old Boles spent last season with the Eastman Selects U18 AAA team and scored 45 points in 39 games.
His favourite memory in hockey was playing in the Brick Hockey Tournament when he was younger, and more recently at the Mac’s Tournament in Calgary with his U18 team last year.
“I think playing for the Nighthawks is best for my development and I am very excited to make the team as a 17-year-old and to play in front of the Niverville fans. The support has been great already. It’s a good situation for me to play for a Junior team so close to my hometown of Lorette.”
Carter Spirig (22)
Carter Spirig was born in Peace River, Alberta in the summer of 2004. He then moved to Fort McMurray at the age of four and lived there for nearly ten years.
He played minor hockey in Fort McMurray and afterward moved to Fort Saskatchewan to play AAA in Bantam, where he went on to be selected as an eighth round (169th overall) draft pick in the WHL draft to the Winnipeg Ice.
Spirig finished playing minor hockey in Edmonton playing U18AAA with the Canadian Athletic Club. His favourite hockey memories include winning the Unsung Hero Award at the John Reid Memorial Tournament and the league championship the same year in Bantam.
“I’m really excited to be joining the Nighthawks this season because it is an opportunity to be part of building a team from scratch. I can’t wait to start the season and get the chance to play with new teammates and make more lifelong memories. I’m excited to meet our fans and be a part of the Niverville community.”
Aidan Ballance (71)
Aidan Ballance was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. He has played hockey since he was seven years old.
Ballance’s favourite moment on the ice came when he was in Atom, when his team won Edmonton’s Minor Hockey Week.
An interesting fact about Ballance is that he has epilepsy and was diagnosed with the disorder when he was 13.
He’s lucky enough that the condition has not affected his ability to play hockey, and instead he uses it as motivation to keep moving up the ranks.
Before joining the Nighthawks, Ballance spent the 2021–22 season with the Golden Rockets of the KIJHL, where he scored 19 points in 38 games.
“I see joining the Nighthawks as a unique opportunity to play for an expansion team and help set the foundation for strong culture. I’m very excited to be a Nighthawk this season and to have the opportunity to play in front of the best fans in Junior hockey.”
Jack Lambert (4)
Jack Lambert was born in Edmonton, but you could say that he grew up around the globe. Throughout his youth, he’s lived in Dubai, California, Texas, and Colorado before moving back to Edmonton at the start of the pandemic. He’s been there ever since.
Lambert started playing hockey at the age of four and continued playing everywhere he moved throughout his childhood, moving from A to AA and eventually to AAA.
His favourite hockey memory is scoring a hat trick while in Texas. Lambert tied the game late to force overtime. He then ended up scoring the winner in overtime as well, completing the hat trick.
“Joining the Nighthawks is important to me because of the opportunity to better myself on and off the ice. Kelvin and the rest of the coaching staff have brought in good hockey players, but also good people. Playing for an expansion team will be full of firsts, and I am super excited to be a part of those, whatever they may be. I’m really excited to get things going this season and looking forward to playing in a great town in front of great fans.”
Dayden Collier (29)
Dayden Collier was born in Swift Current. Early on, his family moved to different parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta until finally settling in Medicine Hat, which is where Collier has lived for most of his life.
Collier first started skating in a small town in Saskatchewan called Shaunavon where his grandparents ran the local rink. He played his first year of hockey at the age of four.
“Ever since then, I have grown so much passion and love for the game of hockey, and I have also met so many people and friends from playing hockey.”
Collier’s favourite hockey memory happened this past winter while playing in his last minor hockey season.
“My team and I got the privilege to play in the annual Mac’s Hockey Tournament, which is one of the biggest U18 tournaments to attend, and we ended up getting first. The whole experience was unforgettable and it’s something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
He adds that joining the Nighthawks has been a privilege and an honour.
“It is important to me that I joined the Nighthawks because of the great staff they have and how much they care about a person’s character. Also, the support from the community has been amazing and I can’t wait to get the season started and compete in front of all the fans!”
Gavin Gunderson (7)
Gavin Gunderson was born and raised in Roseau, Minnesota, where he has played high school hockey for the last four years.
Gunderson is quick to point out the major rivalry that exists between Roseau and Warroad, two small towns along the Manitoba/Minnesota border. He cites his favourite moment in hockey as beating the Warroad Warriors in his sophomore year of high school.
“It is the biggest rivalry in the state of Minnesota for high school hockey. The rinks are packed to the top every game we play each other.”
After scoring 46 points in 27 games with Roseau High School in his senior year, Gunderson is now excited to take his game to the next level in the MJHL with the Nighthawks.
“Signing with the Nighthawks was important for me because I felt like it was a great spot for me to develop my game. I’m very excited!”
Ben Whitford (70)
Ben Whitford was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. He has been playing and watching hockey from a very young age.
Whitford came up through the local ranks in the NWCAA program, before spending the recent 2021–22 campaign with the IHA U18 Prep team of the CSSHL, where he scored 21 points in 29 games.
His favourite hockey memory was being a part of an NHL Heritage Classic game in Calgary. A few young Timbits players took to the ice during the intermission and Ben was lucky enough to be one of them. He had a chance to meet a ton of NHL players and was even featured on TV.
“I am so excited to join the Nighthawks because it is not only a big step for my career, but also a great opportunity to be a part of a tightknit community. Being an expansion team definitely adds a lot of excitement for me. Having the opportunity to be part of a team being built from scratch around a community that’s as excited about the opportunity as the players is definitely special.”