Beaver Valley Nitehawks will look to take another big step forward in the 2023-24 KIJHL season.
The 2023 Neil Murdoch division playoff champion finished their preseason games on a winning note with a 5-3 win over the Spokane Braves on Saturday, Sept. 16.
The Nitehawks went 4-2 in its exhibition matches, with two losses coming in its first two matchups against the Castlegar Rebels. The Hawks then rang up four straight wins including an 8-1 victory over the Nelson Leafs, a 5-2 win over the Rebels, and a 7-2 drubbing of the Braves Friday.
Last season, the Nitehawks finished third in their division with a 24-17-1-2 record and advanced to the Kootenay Conference Final, losing to the Kimberley Dynamiters.
Nitehawks head coach Terry Jones was recently featured on the KIJHL website’s Quick Shift component, where Jones gives a thorough analysis of this year’s roster in a Q&A with KI’s communications director Emanuel Sequeira.
KI: Did you have a good off-season of recruiting?
Jones: Led by Cory Clark, our scouting staff has done an amazing job finding some high-skill, top-notch people to fill needs on our roster.
We are excited about defencemen William Ray and Cade Reber, as well as forwards Hunter Hansen, Nash Hilworth and Roan Crowe. We also have some great local talent that are looking to compete for some of our final roster spots.
We have more AAA players looking at us as an option. What he was able to do was find the best fits for our team and we did a lot of interviews, and as a result, we had a very competitive spring camp. There is a lot of competition for players and some are kind of looking for guarantees. They will take more of that opportunity. We weren’t looking to offer guarantees, more come and compete for a spot.
KI: What do you like about the group of players returning who will play a big part on your team?
Jones: In the last two seasons, our players have realized how close they were to being a top team in the league, and I believe the leadership group has a better understanding of what it takes to be an elite team.
We are not there yet, but they are in great shape and have a strong mindset willing to put in the work to be a more consistent team. Our captain Kaleb Percival sets the tone, goalie Connor Stojan is the backbone, and three-year veterans Spencer Dixon-Reusz, Ethan Smyth, Joel Smyth, Cooper Ross and Austin McLean provide lots of energy, toughness and grit to our game.
Percival has been part of our leadership group for the past few years and has a real high standard of how he conducts himself. He’s a highly skilled player, who is a real student of the game.
In a lot of ways, I kind of refer to him as the player-coach Reg Dunlop. At the end of the day, he demands a lot of the right stuff from every one of our players. He’s a very important component of our team and a guy that everyone respects and loves to play with. As our captain, we’re looking for big things from him.
KI: What were some key areas of success achieved last season that the organization wants to build on?
Jones: We battled a ton of adversity these past few years with key injuries, illness and our team had a strong sense of family that helped us get through some of these tough times. Our comeback in the series against Creston Valley culminating in the Game 7 win at home was a highlight and we hope to become a team that every game will be consistent.
KI: From your second-year returnees, who has stood out during camp?
Jones: Lucas Gartner, Boris Hristov, Tim Josza, Beau Manegre and Stojan. They have all come in really good condition and play with a lot of zest and poise.
They just don’t take things for granted. They have been working really hard in practice and scrimmage and we look for them to take that step to be an elite competitor in the KIJHL.
* The Nitehawks open their season in Kimberley with a match against the Kootenay Conference champion Dynamiters on Saturday, Sept. 23. Their home opener is set for Friday, Sept. 29 against the Golden Rockets.