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Nitehawks flying high in B.C. hockey skies

Posted on April 16, 2014 by Taber Times

Former Taber hockey products Taylor Stafford and Fraser Stang are having a season to remember for the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

The dynamic duo are now preparing for the Western Canadian championship Keystone Cup this weekend after earning both the league championship and the subsequent Cyclone Taylor Cup.

It was a marathon for the Nitehawks to win its league title, playing four best-of-seven rounds against teams from three different divisions in the KIJHL.

“We ended up doing pretty good, finishing in second at one point (in the regular season). It was a battle for first place between us and Nelson for a good part of the season,” said Stafford, adding the Nitehawks would end up beating Kamloops Storm in the championship final in six games. “It was hard work and determination and we have a pretty balanced club.”

Stafford is in his second year with the Nitehawks club as a left winger.

“I had a pretty good season. I’d say I’m pretty hard working and physical and handle the puck well too,” said Stafford. “This has been my most successful season by far. It’s been sort of a surreal experience. I love to play hockey, it’s a good experience, not only just for hockey, but your life as well.”

To qualify for the Cyclone Taylor Club, you have to be the winner of one of the three junior ‘B’ leagues in British Columbia or the host among the four teams. Hosted in Nelson this year, the Nitehawks emerged victorious with a 5-2 win over the Aldergrove Kodiaks in the Cup final.

“The league (championship) was hard because it’s a long path filled with seven-game series, but the Cup series there is no room for error. If you have an off game, you are pretty much done. They are all high-level teams,” said Stang of how each championship had its own distinct flavour to relish.

“This has been an amazing season for me. It’s been the best year of hockey in my life. It’s nice seeing in my first year the organization grow up until the Cyclone Cup.”

Fraser Stang is in his third year with the KIJHL club and a product of the Taber Golden Suns program as well has evolved as a player.  A steady stay-at-home defenceman, Stang has added a little bit of offensive punch to his game as of late for the Nitehawks.

“We grew the entire season. We started out the season without some players who were playing Junior ‘A’ or other leagues, but we started getting better and better from there,” said Stang. “Our goalie (Brett Clark), really had a breakout in the playoffs which helped us.”

The season did not come without some of its trials and tribulations for the Nitehawks who are not at the point of a grueling NHL-type schedule with 84 games already played as the team prepares for the Keystone Cup.

“All through the season we battled adversity. Late in the season we had a few injuries to key players. But we battled through it and still pulled it off,” said Stafford.

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