Nelson Junior Leafs veteran defenceman JJ Beitel played hero Monday night, scoring seven minutes into the first overtime period to give his team a crucial 2-1 win over the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
“It feels pretty wicked,” Beitel told reporters after the game. “I just shot the puck and you never know what happens when you get it on net.”
The overtime victory gives Nelson the 2-1 series lead in the Neil Murdoch Division semi-final that continues Tuesday night at the Nelson and District Community Complex.
Monday’s game was a classic playoff tilt. From the opening whistle there were great hits, great goaltending and a steady exchange of great scoring opportunities.
The teams played it pretty even in the first 20 minutes with both sides taking turns at controlling the play. Eight minutes into the game, Matthew Naka had the best opportunity of the period when he beat Nitehawks starter Jarrod Shamerhorn, but the puck clanged off the post.
The period ended with the score tied at zeroes and the shots even at nine each.
Just over eight minutes into the second period, Leafs forward Carson Willans lost a rare battle along the boards in the Leafs zone which lead to a Dallas Calvin beating Nelson starter Brett Soles to give the visitors the 1-0 advantage.
The Leafs had the edge in play after 40 minutes and outshot Beaver Valley 22-16 in the first two periods, but trailed 1-0 on the scoreboard.
Nelson again controlled the play in the third period and at the exact midpoint of the frame they were rewarded when captain Colton Schell put one past Shamerhorn to knot the score at ones.
Despite a great effort by the Leafs in the final 10 minutes of regulation, they couldn’t solve the KIJHL rookie goaltender and the game was off to OT.
The teams exchanged chances in the first 10-minute extra period, with Soles making a couple of key saves.
Just over six minutes into the extra time, Leafs forward Linden Horswill did some fine work along the boards and managed to get the puck back to Beitel on the point. The shot made its way through traffic and into the back of the Nitehawks net.
“It’s pretty awesome, all the momentum is with us now,” Beitel said about the key Game Three win. “They are sitting in their room bummed and quiet right now, and over here we’re fired up.”
The puck drops on Game Four at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Nelson and District Community Complex.