Burford makes Leafs debut in win over Rockets

The new goalie made 20 saves after joining Nelson this week

The Nelson Leafs didn’t waste time getting their new goaltender on the ice.

Nelson acquired Sam Burford on Wednesday from the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders. He was between the pipes Friday and made 20 saves as the Leafs cruised past the Golden Rockets 7-2.

The Leafs also released rookie backup Quinn Yeager as part of the transaction. Yeager had a 3-2-1 record with a 2.42 goals against average and a .907 save percentage, which was serviceable behind starter Josh Williams.

But general manager Lance Morey said he couldn’t pass up a clear upgrade in Burford.

“Josh has been exceptional. Quinn was OK,” said Morey. “Real good kid, I think he’s going to be a real good goaltender. But we were getting a kid who is bigger, technically is more sound and had Junior A experience.

“It was just really a situation where we couldn’t pass it up. With the team we have, if Josh was to go down, we wanted to have somebody we felt more comfortable relying on if he had to play for any length of time.”

Williams has been arguably the best goaltender in the KIJHL so far this season. He leads the league in GAA and save percentage, and Morey said he’ll remain the team’s No. 1 netminder.

Acquiring Burford, Morey said, is a way of shoring up a team with championship aspirations.

“Last year we needed a goaltender. We were struggling in net and we tried before the January 10 deadline and couldn’t find a goalie who would be a huge upgrade from what we had. …,” he said. “We just felt we didn’t want to go down that road this year. Sometimes these quality players become available and you have to make a decision at the time, because Sam wouldn’t be available at Christmas.”

Burford was hardly tested Friday against the league-worst Rockets.

Jack Karran, Jaiden LaPorte, Ryan Cooper, Ryan Piva, Sawyer Hunt, Ethan Beattie and Justin Podgorenko each scored for the Leafs (12-2-2), who won their third straight game.

Jacksyn Goodall and Ryley Bast replied for the Rockets (1-12-2), while Canon Whitbread and Calum Humble combined to make 37 saves.

Nelson next faces the Creston Valley Thunder Cats on the road Saturday.

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