Sports

Nelson Leafs success comes with depth

Leafs center Bryce Nielsen is one of the players who has added extra scoring touch when needed so far this season. - Bob Hall photo
Leafs center Bryce Nielsen is one of the players who has added extra scoring touch when needed so far this season.
— image credit: Bob Hall photo

The Nelson Junior Leafs came away with five of six points on a three-game East Kootenay road swing last weekend. A solid result for most teams in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, but more impressive when you consider the squad’s top line barely made a mark on the scoresheet.

The line of Colton Schell, Colton McCarthy and Jacob Boyczuk is arguably the top line in the league. Veteran Schell leads the league in points (41), 16-year-old McCarthy leads all rookie scorers in points (26) and power forward Boyczuk is helping open up ice with 22 points. Though the trio has factored large in the boxscore for most of the season, in the three-game stretch the line only registered two points (goals by McCarthy and Schell).

“They are being watched and played against by their best defensive guys,” said Leafs head coach Frank Maida. “But other guys stepped up and filled the role which is a great thing to see.”

One of the players helping fill the role on the team is California native Bryce Nielsen who is tied for third in team goal scoring with Boyczuk, registering 11 markers on the season.

“It shows that we have a lot of depth on our team and I think that is one of the keys to our success so far,” Nielsen said of the fact the top line is getting more attention from opposition checkers.

Nielsen arrived to Nelson after being released by the Winkler Flyers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Though the Laguna Hills resident had never been to Nelson, he said he is warming up to the community.

“I didn’t know anything about Nelson, but I am really liking it here,” the 18-year-old told the Star.

Nielsen said the Leafs’ success so far this season — the team is currently first overall in the league — is the chemistry that has quickly developed.

“I think one of the keys is that all the guys are really close and there is a strong bond,” he said.

After an intense road weekend, the Leafs now have a bit of a break with only one game this weekend. The Spokane Braves will visit the Nelson and District Community Complex on Saturday night.

“A break is good. We can focus on some things in practice,” Maida said after the East Kootenay swing. “You always want to be better in your own zone and that is going to be our focus.”

Saturday night will be  special for the Leafs as they unveil their third jersey. Fans are also in on the fun with the team providing free admission to anybody who wears a hockey jersey to the game. Though a free pass through the gates, the team is asking for donations to the Movember campaign that is asking men to grow nasty mustaches in an effort to raise money for prostate cancer. All donations at the Leafs game on Saturday will be given to the effort.

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