Ty Dilello – The Niverville Citizen
The Nighthawks gave it everything they had in game one of their first round best-of-seven series against the Portage Terriers. It took double overtime to decide a winner, but in the first Nighthawks’ playoff game in franchise history, they lost 5–4.
Josh Paulhus opened the scoring for the Nighthawks early in the first period. Portage replied twice late in the period and then scored again early in the second period to take a 3–1 lead.
Shortly afterwards, the game took a very unfortunate turn as the Terriers’ Gavin Klaassen was checked hard into the boards by Bryce Warkentine. There was a lengthy delay as Klaassen received medical attention on the ice for 20 minutes and both teams left the playing surface to head to the dressing room.
“We’re hoping Gavin Klaassen can make a full recovery,” said Nighthawks head coach Kelvin Cech. “You never want to see anyone get hurt, so we heard he’s moving around and feeling okay, and that he escaped serious damage, so that’s the most important thing.”
When the game resumed, Paulhus scored his second goal of the game to cut it to 3–2.
Portage scored midway through the final frame to extend their lead to 4–2. However, the Nighthawks proved how resilient they are by rallying late and scoring twice in the game’s final five minutes with goals from Gavin Gunderson and Braden Panzer to send it to overtime.
The first overtime period solved nothing as the two teams traded chances.
Portage came out rushing to start double overtime, and after a goal line scramble, the Nighthawks goaltender Chris Fines lost his stick. A few moments later, Portage’s Mike Stubbs scored while Fines was missing his stick to win 5–4.
“It was quite a battle with a lot of drama,” said Cech. “It’s a game that could have gone either way, and it went their way tonight. Our team is never out of it. It doesn’t matter what the score is, as we’re comfortable that we can come back. It was a valiant effort, and even that first overtime, we were all over them and had a couple of chances, including a breakaway from Carson Reed that just missed.”
Chris Fines was easily the player of the game in tonight’s contest. The shot totals were not updated, but it’s likely that he stopped more than 50 shots on the evening, with many of them being highlight reel saves.
“Fines was sensational and was the biggest reason we were in it tonight, so we’ll need him to continue playing like that to give us a chance going forward.”
The Nighthawks are back in action on Saturday evening at the CRRC for game two. Please come out and support your Nighthawks! The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
“It was tough to lose the way we did, but the fight that we showed late in the game says something about this group,” said Gavin Gunderson. “We are never out of a game, no matter what the score is. We know we can beat Portage if we stick to believing in each other like we have been all year. This game showed that we can definitely win the series even though we lost tonight.”