Nitehawks down Leafs in back-to-back games
The Nelson Leafs drop out of first place after Saturday night hockey action in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
Losing 5-3 to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, the Leafs fall one point behind Castlegar Rebels who won both their games this weekend.
“We got out played tonight. There were a few bad breaks and they capitalized,” said Leafs coach Frank Maida.
The teams came out physical giving the crowd of over 700 a fast-paced first period with lots of back and forth action. On the board first, Leafs Aaron Dunlap scored top shelf from Colton Schell at 15:19 into the period.
But Beaver Valley tied it up less than a minute later. Riley Brandt put it past Leafs net minder Brett Soles who played in lieu of Marcus Beesley who’s started most games since coming to the Nelson team earlier this year. Another goal by the Nitehawks with 2:18 left in the first, Dan Holland scored with Dallas Calvin and Connor Brown-Maloski assisting.
Holland scored again 3:29 seconds into the second with help from Archie McKinnon and Brown-Maloski making it 3-1. An unnecessary penalty, too-many-men, gave the Nitehawks a power play advantage. They capitalized with Luke Reimer scoring from Arie Postmus at 13:50 in the second.
Damin Devlin put it in the net for the Leafs making it 4-2 with 4:36 left in the period. Blake Arcuri got the assist. And the Leafs would bring the score to within one as Carson Willans buried the rebound with under a minute left in the third. JJ Beitel assisted on the power play goal.
The Nitehawks dominated the third period. Brown-Maloski gave his team the two-point lead to win the game on a goal scored 3:42 into play. Kurt Black assisted.
The win garnered loud cheers from the large contingent of fans following the Beaver Valley team who are now one point back of the Leafs. Castlegar defeated the Golden Rockets 5-3 to move into first place in the Neil
Murdoch division. They’re one point up on the Leafs with a game in hand in a race to the play-offs that remains tight.
Maida says his team is still in the hunt for first place despite the hunger of teams who’ve been trailing the league leading Leafs for most of the season.
“Everybody is out to take our spot,” said Maida. “We have to work for it to keep it.”
The Leafs hit the road next weekend with games against the Sicamous Eagles and Revelstoke Grizzlies. They will play Castlegar Rebels the following weekend with another critical home-and-home series. They face off against the Rebels at home on February 16.