Ty Dilello – The Niverville Citizen
The Niverville Nighthawks lost 5–1 on the road Friday evening on a tough and unfruitful seven-hour road trip to Opaskwayak Cree Nation (The Pas). The Nighthawks fell behind early and could not recover against one of the top teams in the MJHL this season.
With every passing game, the race for the playoffs gets tighter.
OCN scored a minute into the game and again later in the period. After going up 3–0 midway through the second period, the Nighthawks got one back when Hayden Wheddon popped home his tenth goal of the season to cut the deficit to 3–1 heading into the third period.
There would be no comeback in the final frame as the Blizzard pulled away with a pair of goals to dispatch the Nighthawks.
Chris Fines stopped 30 shots in goal.
“We had a bad start with an early penalty that was pretty preventable,” said Nighthawks head coach Kelvin Cech. “It’s a tough way to start in a difficult building, and then we got behind early, and we’re chasing for most of the game. And then we just had a real hard time getting to the middle of the ice and moving the puck efficiently up the ice to get it to spots to create offence in their zone. So they did a great job of closing down the middle and were really stingy.”
The Gordon Lathlin Memorial Centre, where the OCN Blizzard plays, has a reputation throughout the league as being a particularly tough building to play in with its passionate fanbase.
However, Cech and his club enjoyed the challenge of playing in that building.
“It was exciting playing in their rink as the hometown faithful there smells playoffs,” said Cech. “They have a very strong team this year, so the fans were boisterous and got on our guys a bit, which is fun. So it’s a fun atmosphere to be in if you’re the home team, just like our rink is fun and tough to play in back in Niverville.”
The Nighthawks have a quick turnaround as they’re back in action tonight on the road against the Swan Valley Stampeders, who are currently in first place in the MJHL’s West Division.
“We just have to turn the page right away,” said Cech. “We’re right back at it against a great team in Swan Valley, so we have to be prepared to come out stronger.”
Although the Nighthawks still have a four-point lead on the fourth and final playoff position in the East Division, their hold on the spot is tenuous. There are only four games to play in the regular season, three of them against league leaders who have already locked their playoff spots—Swan Valley, Portage, and Winkler.
The season will wrap up with two final home games at the CRRC next weekend.