Shawn Campbell saved the Nelson Leafs from themselves. He’d rather not do it again.
Campbell’s overtime winner spared his team what was very nearly a humiliating loss to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks. Nelson squandered three leads and gave up two goals in the final moments of regulation only to have Campbell’s goal give the Leafs a 7-6 victory.
“Nerve-wracking,” was all Campbell could say when it was all over.
Paul Leroux capped a hat trick for Beaver Valley with 1:25 left in the third period. Then just 20 seconds later Nolan Corrado fired a shot that deflected over Leafs goaltender C.J. Wedenig’s shoulder to tie the back-and-forth contest at six and force overtime.
“I think we were all just puck watching too much and getting lazy in the D-zone,” said Campbell. “Just focusing on scoring goals.”
Nelson started overtime on the power play. Nitehawks goalie Saran Virdee made a big save moments into the extra period, but the rebound went straight to Campbell who ended a wild affair Friday night.
Keenan Crossman, Jack Karran, Ryan Piva, Michael LeNoury, Emery Neilson and Kalem Hanlon also had goals for Nelson (12-1-1), which won its sixth straight game. Wedenig meanwhile made 23 saves.
Corrado had two goals and Luke Recchi scored a single for Beaver Valley (8-5-1), while Virdee stopped 18 shots.
Despite the win, DiBella was less than impressed with his team after the game.
“The good sign is we scored seven to win. The bad sign is we gave up six,” he said. “We were terrible in the defensive zone, taking away sticks, and I didn’t think our goaltending was very strong tonight.”
Nelson was inches away from opening the scoring over halfway through the first period. David Sanchez snapped a shot that Virdee caught a piece of, but the puck nearly trickled in anyway and elicited a gasp from the crowd before Virdee recovered for the save.
But the Leafs scored anyway just three minutes later. Crossman, playing in his first game in over a month after recovering from an upper-body injury, was standing to Virdee’s glove side when he fired a sharp-angle shot that also hit Virdee but slid into the net anyway.
The period was just 32.8 seconds from ending when Karran put the Leafs up by two. Karran was in the same spot Crossman was when he picked off the puck and wired a no-doubter past Virdee.
Beaver Valley got back in the game in the second thanks to a mistake by Crossman. The Leafs rookie was ejected for a head shot on the boards that laid out Nitehawks forward Angus Amadio.
That opened the door for the Nitehawks to score twice on the ensuing five-minute major. First, Corrado scored on a rebound to cut the deficit, and shortly after Leroux deflected a shot past Wedenig to tie the game.
The rally was squashed in short order.
Piva scored his 13th goal of the season on a quick shot off a draw. Then, on the power play, LeNoury fired a point shot that floated into the top corner. Neilson capped the three-goal outburst with a breakaway that ended in a nice deke and a puck sliding through Virdee’s pads for the 5-2 lead.
Neilson said it was hard to stay comfortable on the ice while he team struggled to hold leads against the tenacious Nitehawks.
“You’ve got to play a full 60-minute game. We just showed what happens if you don’t,” he said. “They start coming back and it gets tied up. So you celebrate quick, but you’ve got to back on your next shift and work even harder.”
The Nitehawks got back within one before the period ended. A shot by Bradley Ross caromed off the boards behind Wedenig back to a wide-open Recchi, who had an easy shot to end the six-goal period at 5-3.
The goals kept coming in the third period.
The Leafs were on a power play when the puck came to an undefended Hanlon from behind the Nitehawks net. He slipped the puck between Virdee’s pads for the 6-3 lead.
But less than a minute later Leroux was in front of Wedenig to deflect a wide-angle shot, and the deficit was at two once more. That set up the wild finish, one the Leafs could have lived without.
“In the last two minutes I think we were just running around too much,” said Neilson. “We weren’t really communicating well, we lost track of what we were doing, and defensively we were just not strong at all.”
Leaflets: Nelson played without G Caiden Kreitz (upper body), F Scott Lancaster (upper body) and F Joshua Stypka. … The Leafs have traded D Cole Jensen to the Grand Forks Border Bruins for a player development fee. Jensen had one goal and one assist in five games with Nelson. … Nelson next hosts the Golden Rockets on Saturday.