Nelson’s Ryan Cooper tries to slide a shot past Castlegar’s Curt Doyle on Friday. Photo: John K. White/Castlegar News

Leafs hammer Braves for third straight win

Ryan Piva scored twice as Nelson kept pace atop the division

The Nelson Leafs weren’t interested in showing opponents mercy last weekend.

The Leafs hammered the Rebels 7-3 in Castlegar on Friday before pummelling the lowly Braves 6-1 in Spokane on Sunday. The three-game winning streak kept Nelson tied with the Grand Forks Border Bruins atop the Neil Murdoch Division.

Four goals on just eight shots in the third period led Nelson past the Rebels.

Jackson Zimmermann, Ryan Cooper and Justin Podgorenko each scored consecutive goals within less than five minutes during the final 20 minutes, while Logan Wullum added another for Nelson with a minute to go.

David Sanchez, Ethan Beattie and Ryan Piva also each scored, while goaltender Josh Williams was spectacular with 47 saves.

Tanner Costa, Everett Hicks and Shawn Campbell also each scored in the third for Castlegar, with Curt Doyle allowing all seven goals on 38 shots.

On Sunday, Ryan Piva scored twice for the Leafs, who also got singles from Jack Karran, Jaiden LaPorte, Dash Thompson and David Sanchez. Quinn Yeager meanwhile stopped 23 shots.

The game was an easy win against the Braves, who have lost seven in a row. Dawson Tritt had Spokane’s lone goal, while the Leafs forced goaltender Trevor Dilauro to stop 48 shots.

There are several reasons for the Leafs’ torrid start to the season.

Firstly, Nelson has benefited from the spectacular play of its goaltenders. Williams leads all KIJHL netminders with at least five games played in both goals-against average at 1.41 and save percentage at .955. Yeager, a rookie backup who has also started five games, is third in GAA (2.16) and 10th in save percentage (.912).

The Leafs are also the league’s hardest team to score against during a man advantage. Nelson leads the league in penalty kill percentage, having allowed just one goal in 61 PK scenarios. Nelson is also ninth overall in power-play scoring.

Offensively, Nelson has found success spreading its scoring throughout the lineup in a division with plenty of snipers.

Whereas five players from other Neil Murdoch teams occupy the top 10 in league scoring, Nelson doesn’t even have a player in the top 20. But the team’s offence has shared the spotlight, with five players in double digits and every player on the roster having registered at least a point through 12 games.

Nelson is two games into a five-game road trip. Next up is a visit to Kimberley on Thursday, followed by trips to Golden on Friday and Invermere against Columbia Valley on Saturday. The Leafs then return home Oct. 27 against the Rockets.

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