Bryden Pow had some inside intel on what to expect ahead of Saturday’s game.
The Nelson Leafs forward said he has friends playing for the 100 Mile House Wranglers, and knew what they were about before the puck dropped.
“They told me before they’re a physical team and they just run teams out of the rink,” said Pow. “But tonight I think our team showed good discipline and kept up with them.”
Joe Davidson and Shawn Campbell each scored twice as Nelson stayed out of the penalty box en route to an 8-4 win over the Wranglers.
Reid Wilson, Cole Wyatt, Shawn Grobowsky and Pow also scored for the Leafs (10-2-3), who won their ninth straight game.
(Technically they’ve won 10 in a row after North Okanagan was forced to forfeit its Sept. 28 victory against Nelson. So let’s just stick with 10 from now on.)
The win put Nelson momentarily alone atop the Neil Murdoch Division, a remarkable turnaround for a team that lost its first six games.
“It was pretty dark in September,” said Leafs assistant coach Adam DiBella. “It’s brighter than bright in October.”
Leafs goaltender Austin Madge allowed three goals on 10 shots before being replaced by Anderson Violette, who made 13 saves.
Jackson Kowblick scored twice and Quinn Mulder and Harley Bootsma had singles for the Wranglers (6-8-0), with goalie Jordan Wilde allowing eight goals on 30 shots. Caelan Armstrong also made an appearance in 100 Mile’s goal for the final two minutes of the game and had one save.
Discipline was the theme of Nelson’s win over the Wranglers.
The visitors goaded the Leafs throughout the game, a tactic that is usually works at this level of hockey, but didn’t phase the home team Saturday. This was especially apparent in the second period when the Wranglers took eight penalties to just two against Nelson.
Grobowsky and DiBella each singled out captain David Sanchez for a sublime performance in drawing multiple penalties.
“We’ve been preaching not taking any retaliation calls because it just puts your team down,” said Grobowsky. “It just shows how tough you actually are. Sure you can get hit and hit a guy back. The real tough guy gets hit and doesn’t do anything back.”
A power-play goal put Nelson up 1-0 just five minutes into regulation when Davidson found Campbell with a cross-ice pass in front of Wilde for the quick goal.
The Wranglers pounced on a chance to tie the game six minutes later. A puck bounced over to Madge, who put his head up in frustration when he opted to not cover it only for Mulder to swat in a goal.
The Leafs took the lead on a goal by Davidson, but only after he made everyone in the arena think he’d already scored.
Davidson’s first shot at an open-net missed and bounced off the side. The shot fooled the goal judge, who lit the lamp and had fans cheering even as play had continued on.
Moments later Davidson whipped a wrist shot through Wilde’s pads for a very real goal and a 2-1 lead.
Two minutes later it was Davidson again with a sharp angle shot that he put over Wilde’s shoulder on the power play for the 3-1 advantage.
Davidson finished the game with four points and plenty of acclaim.
“Joe has been the biggest surprise from first day of training camp to now,” said DiBella. “Who would have thought a lanky 16 year old would be putting up four points and be top five in our team in scoring? He listens, he works hard, everything you tell him he listens and takes it to heart.”
The busy period ended on a contested goal.
The Wranglers were on a power play when Kowblick redirected in a goal off his skate with 42 seconds left. Several Leafs immediately protested, but after a chat the officials decided Kowblick hadn’t kicked the puck in. That cut Nelson’s lead to one as both teams took a break.
Period No. 2 was a testy 20 minutes that saw players on each side limping off the ice.
Barnes tied the game after he carried the puck in front of Madge, waited him to go to the ice and put the puck over the sprawled-out goalie.
That ended Madge’s night, and when Violette entered he immediately heard a shot clang off the iron behind him.
Nelson was routinely victimized by 100 Mile House players, but the Leafs laughed last — twice in fact — on a pair of power plays in the final minute.
Wilson whipped a shot top corner on Wilde with 42 seconds left, and then Campbell tapped in another with a mere 0.9 seconds on the clock for a 5-3 lead. Campbell now has 11 goals in just seven games.
Wilson and Wyatt combined to put Nelson up 6-3 one minute into the third period. Wilson wired a hard shot that rebounded off Wilde’s shoulder straight to Wyatt, who backhanded the puck back in.
The Wranglers showed some resiliency five minutes later. Defenceman Aidan Morrison found an open Kowblick, who deked Violette and scored.
But Grobowsky made sure that’s where the visitor’s rally ended. He was a step ahead of the defence on a short-handed breakaway that ended with a nice deke and goal for Nelson’s seventh goal.
Less than a minute later Pow turned and slapped a rebound past Wilde that chased the goalie from the net with just 2:10 left in the game.
“It was scrappy. I liked it though,” said Pow, who now has bragging rights over his Wrangler buddies. “It was physical. It was fun to play in.”
Leaflets: Nelson has traded F Adam Power to the Sicamous Eagles to complete an off-season trade that brought F Jackson Vyse to the Leafs. … Leafs F Jaden Shumilak has been suspended two games for harassment of official and unsportsmanlike conduct during a game Oct. 25. He’s eligible to return Nov. 5. Leafs head coach Mario DiBella was also suspended. … F Jackson Zimmerman (upper body) missed the game. … Nelson next hosts the Kamloops Storm on Nov. 2.