The Niverville Nighthawks are in a 2-0 hole after losing both games over the weekend to the Portage Terriers.
Friday Night Thriller
If the first playoff game for the Niverville Nighthawks is any indicator of things to come, there is some exciting hockey on the horizon.
The Portage Terriers ended up coming out on top (5-4) in double overtime, but Niverville showed their resilience after battling back from a multiple-goal deficit and tied the game late in regulation, while also proving their special teams are in fact effective. The Terriers outshot the Nighthawks 51-30 over the course of the game, and at times it looked as though it would be a tough battle for the Niverville squad to keep pace with the powerhouse Terriers.
Hayden Lacquette lived up to the billing as an offensive threat for the home team, netting a hat trick after scoring in each of the 3 periods during regulation time. Terriers forward Mike Stubbs proved to be the hero, scoring the game-winner and finished with 2 goals on the night, adding a marker on the man advantage.
The Nighthawks started off well, controlling the play and using their speed to stretch the Portage defense. After an early power play, Josh Paulhus gave the Nighthawks a 1-0 lead just 2:37 into the 1st. Portage responded well and came back to take the lead heading onto the 2nd period up 2-1.
The Terriers worked hard in the second frame and extended their lead to 3-1 after Hayden Lacquette scored his second goal of the game. A scary incident occurred after a collision between Niverville forward, Bryce Warkentine, and the Terriers Gavin Klaassen, who remained on the ice for some time before being stretchered off the ice and taken to a local hospital. Thankfully all indications are that he will be ok as some stitches were required but no other major injuries were sustained. Thanks to the trainers who did a fantastic job on the ice and saw to a speedy response from EMTs. Excellent work from everyone involved.
After play resumed, things looked dire (for Niverville) due to the fact the Terriers sport the #1 powerplay in the league while the Nighthawk's penalty kill has been among the league’s worst. Chris Fines made some key saves and the Niverville defenders played outstanding hockey in order to create a moment of brilliance as Josh Paulhus found the back of the net for his 2nd goal, converting on a pass from Braden Panzer. After 40 minutes, the Nighthawks trailed 3-2.
The 3rd frame was back and forth until Hayden Lacquette capped off his hat trick on the powerplay near the midway stage of the period, making it 4-2. At this point, Niverville could easily have packed their bags, but they showed no quit and worked hard, earning themselves a trip to the man-advantage. Evan Bortis and Braden Panzer found a way to get the puck to the front of the net while Gavin Gunderson did the rest, banging in his first goal of the playoffs. The Nighthawks had some life. Carson Reed put on a defensive show in the 3rd as he made numerous outstanding plays in his own end and came close to scoring on an odd-man rush down the wing. Portage netminder Bailey Monteith was forced into making some big saves as the Nighthawks pressed to find an equalizer. Finally with less than 3 minutes remaining, Braden Panzer wristed one past Monteith and tied things up, much to the delight of the Niverville fans that made the trip to Portage. Regulation time ended with a flurry of chances on either side, providing all fans in attendance with some fantastic entertainment.
The first 10-minute overtime period proved to be no less exciting with Portage ringing both posts on an attempt, coming oh so close to ending it. At times Chris Fines literally stood on his head, keeping his team alive. Carson Reed showed why he’s one of the best young players in the league as he maneuvered down ice and came within inches of ending the game. Unfortunately, the puck rolled off his stick at the last second and he wasn’t able to deposit the puck into the open net on a beautiful backhand try. Niverville had numerous chances and continued to press throughout the first OT but couldn’t find a way to finish.
The ice was cleared and it was time for the second overtime period. It didn’t take long as the Terriers swarmed Niverville in the offensive zone. Chris Fines made 3 big saves before Mike Stubbs grabbed a loose puck and zipped it top shelf, giving the Terriers the win and a 1-0 lead in the first-round series.
All in all, an unbelievable game as the Nighthawks showed they can run with the big guns while exhibiting a lot of heart. Chris Fines was outstanding in net, the defensive corps did all they could and contributed on both ends of the ice. Evan Bortis grabbed 3 assists on the night but hats off to the other blue-liners for their fantastic efforts. Josh Paulhus, Braden Panzer, and Gavin Gunderson also proved they were big game players, each collecting multiple points during the contest.
Memories Made Despite Outcome
The Portage Terriers proved to be too much for the hometown Nighthawks Saturday night, as they skated to a 5-2 win and head back to Portage with a 2-0 series lead. The game had its share of excitement in front of a packed CRRC, and for the first-ever home playoff game, it lived up to what the community hoped for (aside from not getting a win).
This contest was much different than the previous matchup as both squads managed to keep the sheet clean in the first period while showcasing some nice defensive work and smart execution on zone exits. The shots were even at 13 a piece and both teams had a power play but the goalies made some key saves as the game headed to the second period knotted up at 0-0.
The second frame featured a 5-goal explosion with the Nighthawks getting on the board first. Ty Kennet sent the crowd into a frenzy when he scored on the power play after a loose puck from a Desmond Johnson point shot found its way to the side of the net. Niverville played some solid hockey and for the next 7 minutes, kept stride with the Terriers. Portage does well in their own end along with some great puck movers and all it takes is a window of opportunity for them to make an impact. Ryan Botterill and Mike Stubbs showcased that when they made quick work of a Nighthawks turnover and tied the game on a beautiful shot by Stubbs off the rush. A minute later at the 12:26 mark, Botterill assisted on the go-ahead goal when Daniel Siso converted on a 2-on-1.
The attack from the Terriers can be daunting, but one cannot question the resilience of the Nighthawks. After some pressure in their own end, Niverville stood their ground and eventually tied things up at 2 on a wicked shot from Carter Spirig. Brett Tataryn and Ty Kennet grabbed assists on the play and the Niverville faithful were back on their feet.
One thing you cannot do with the Terriers is give them opportunities on the man advantage. They boast the best power play numbers in the league for a reason and showed just why when they capitalized on an Ethan Whillans interference call late in the 2nd. Kaden Kohle scored his first goal of the playoffs and Portage grabbed the lead at 3-2 heading into the 3rd.
Bailey Monteith played well in net for the Terriers, making some fantastic saves down the stretch. Niverville came close to finding the tying goal but couldn’t break through. Things looked good when they found themselves on the power play near the midway point of the final period but it went sideways and the Terrier's Brendan Holba scored short-handed and took the wind out of the Niverville sails. Portage had a 4-2 lead and locked things down as the Nighthawks just couldn’t find an answer. Ryan Botterill collected his 3rd point of the game when he scored, making it 5-2 and finished things off for the Terriers. Josh Paulhus gave the hometown fans something to cheer about when he and Brock MacDonald engaged in a late-game tilt, with Paulhus coming out on top after a steady stream of landed right hands.
The Nighthawks will look to regroup and find a way to beat the Terriers on home ice as they head to Portage on Tuesday for game 3.