Though the Nelson Junior Leafs early exit from the post season put a damper on March for local hockey fans, there is still reason to cheer in the KIJHL semi-finals.
Five former Leafs and Nelson Minor Hockey grad are currently embroiled in the league’s final four showdown, many of them playing huge roles in their team’s successes to this point.
The Fernie Ghostriders and Beaver Valley Nitehawks played game three on Tuesday night (after Star deadline), in a series that looks to be a great battle with each team taking one of the first two games.
The Fernie line-up features two former Leafs — Connor McLaughlin and Ty Morton — and former Nelson Minor Hockey standout Matt Carr.
McLaughlin played a big role in Fernie’s 6-3 win on Sunday and currently sits third in playoff scoring with 15 goals and nine assists. McLaughlin played with the Leafs starting in 2008 and was traded to the Ghostriders during the 2010-11 season. McLaughlin scored 27 goals during the regular season.
Morton, an offensive defenceman, played with the Leafs in the 2008-2009 season. He lead Fernie blueliners in scoring during the regular season and is again proving valuable in the post season with 10 points after Sunday’s game. Like McLaughlin, Morton is in his final year of junior hockey.
Carr is in his first full season of KIJHL hockey. The 17-year-old defenceman scored eight goals and added 15 assists during the regular season and has played in all the Ghostriders’ games so far in the playoffs. Carr was a key member of Nelson Minor Hockey rep teams while growing up in the area.
The surprise Kelowna Chiefs were up 2-0 in their series on the equally surprising Sicamous Eagles after Sunday’s action. The Chiefs are being paced in the playoffs by former Leafs Dane Rupert, Landon Andrusiak and Braeden Hikichi.
Andrusiak and Rupert are leading the Chiefs in post season scoring with both registering eight goals and adding 14 assists. During the regular season Rupert — who played with the Leafs for three seasons starting in 2007-08 — lead his team in scoring with 35 goals and 51 assists. Andrusiak — who suited up for Nelson in the 2009-10 season — was second on the team with 20 goals and 53 assists despite missing 13 games.
Hikichi played for the Leafs for two seasons starting in 2009-10 before being traded during this past off-season. The Kelowna native lead the Chiefs blueliners in scoring during the regular season with 42 points. He continues to be a staple on the powerplay in the post season run.