KIJHL: Leafs part with Novin, Garcia and Smith

The Nelson Leafs have sent home players Nick Novin, Tyler Garcia and Brendan Smith.

The Nelson Leafs have sent three players home.

Forwards Nick Novin and Tyler Garcia as well as defenceman Brendan Smith are off the Leafs’ active lineup, leaving the team with 22 players available on the 23-man roster.

Leafs head coach and general manager David McLellan said Friday the departures put his struggling team in a difficult spot. Nelson (13-16-1) has lost five games in a row and has just two wins in its last 14 games.

“It’s a tough one. Novin’s a good player. … It hurts us,” said McLellan.

Novin had three goals and 10 assists in 17 games of his rookie season.

Garcia, a KIJHL veteran in his third season who left to join a team in Great Falls, Mont., was second in team scoring with 16 points (nine goals, seven assists).

Smith, meanwhile, had six goals and nine assists but hadn’t played since Oct. 24 with an upper-body injury.

Nelson is also missing its backup goaltender for the weekend. Zakery Babin was injured Thursday during practice after a shot hit his knee. He’s day-to-day.

The Leafs will be joined by 15-year-old reserve forward Reece Tambellini on Friday for the team’s road game against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. Nelson returns home Saturday to host the Osoyoos Coyotes.

McLellan said he hopes to get some reinforcements back after the holiday break. Maximilian Daerendinger and Rayce Miller have been out since last month with injuries.