Ty Dilello – The Niverville Citizen
The Niverville Nighthawks earned a massive win on Tuesday night in game three of their best-of-seven first round series against the Portage Terriers. With their backs up against the wall after losing the opening two games of the series, the Nighthawks rallied to win 5-4 and get back into the thick of things.
The Nighthawks now trail two games to one but have fresh life and will look to even the series back on home ice in game four.
“This group is so resilient. It doesn’t matter if we’re losing and by how many, we’re never out of it,” said Nighthawks head coach Kelvin Cech. “We’ve been right in there in all three games this series, so it shows we’re playing them pretty even. It’s been back and forth for three games, and we’re happy to finally win.”
Gavin Gunderson opened the game’s scoring for the Nighthawks just three minutes into the contest. Portage then scored twice shortly after to take a 2–1 lead.
Josh Paulhus scored early in the second period, and after Portage retook the lead a few minutes later, defenceman Eric Martin got the tying goal, knotting the contest at 3–3.
Knowing this was a must-win game, the Nighthawks came out hard in the third period and earned the much-needed victory. Gunderson scored midway through the final frame to put the Nighthawks ahead, and although Portage would reply with a goal shortly after, it was the captain, Brett Tataryn, who potted home the game-winner with just over three minutes left in regulation.
Chris Fines was excellent once again in the Nighthawks net.
“There was a tie-up on the offensive zone faceoff, and the puck gets slapped to the opposite corner, and we battle to get to open ice,” said Tataryn, describing the game-winning goal. “I got a nice feed from Reed, turned, and fired it on the net—and it went in. That’s definitely up there for the most important goal of my career.”
“When Brett gets pucks in those situations and spots on the ice, he’s pretty lethal,” said Cech. “After he scored, we protected the lead well and held on for the massive win. Paulhus had an enormous shot block with a minute left that didn’t go unnoticed either.”
Niverville and Portage will meet up for game four at the CRRC on Thursday night. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re on a ride here, and it’s a roller coaster. We should embrace the high points, and this is one of them,” said Cech. “It’s a lot nicer now to come to the rink tomorrow and go to work knowing that we’ve got a lot more belief in ourselves now. And Portage has some doubt, which is what we want.”