The Niverville Nighthawks had another dramatic victory over the Portage Terriers, this one going all the way to a seven-round shootout on Wednesday night at the CRRC. With the 2–1 win, the Nighthawks stay in fourth place in the MJHL’s East Division with a record of 20–12–1.
It was a battle of the goaltenders right from the opening puck drop. Raiden LeGall and his Portage counterpart Jayden Catellier were up to the challenge all night long.
There was no scoring in the first or second periods, and it took until the final minutes of the game before anyone found the back of the goal. Portage scored with seven minutes left to break the deadlock. A few minutes later, the Nighthawks got one back with Luke MacKenzie scoring his eighth goal of the season to force overtime.
Overtime solved nothing. In the shootout, the teams traded chances until Niverville’s Avery Laliberte scored the game-winner.
“I think we all bought into our system and believed in each other. We are a hard-working team and defended really well tonight,” said Nighthawks defenceman Colin Whaley. “We have been really working on our conditioning and making sure that we are in good physical shape to outwork our opponents. Also, our coaching staff has done a great job of breaking down opponents’ video and putting together a game plan to beat them. We know we can compete with anyone, and I think we’ve proven that to the league recently.”
The hero of the night, Laliberte was quick to give credit to the team’s defence corps, which had a busy game. The Nighthawks found themselves in the unenviable position of having to kill off a pair of two-minute five-on-three scenarios at different points in the game. That would be a tall order against any team, not to mention against a powerhouse like Portage.
“We stuck to our fundamentals and didn’t give them much offensively,” Laliberte said. “But in the end, our penalty kill won us the game, as well as another fantastic game by Raiden LeGall. We have played well defensively, and our goalie has been playing out of his mind lately, so we have rallied around him.”
The Nighthawks are off for the holidays now and will be back in action on January 5 with a road game against the Winkler Flyers. The puck drops at 7:00 p.m.
“I’m excited for the break, but anxious for the second half, as we have made some really good strides lately,” said Whaley. “My plans are to go home and spend Christmas with my family back in Michigan, recharge, and get ready for the next half.”