While the Nelson Junior Leafs’ Friday night tussle with the Castlegar Rebels may stick in the memory, it likely won’t be for the right reasons.
What was already a game of high tensions and more than a little aggression turned downright bizarre in the final minutes of the third period, when Leaf Evan Moir scored the team’s third goal of the evening on an empty Castlegar net. Empty not because the team had pulled its goalie, but because Rebel netminder Alex Ross was on the wrong end of a Leafs dogpile.
“I looked at the ref before I even shot the puck, and I’m like, ‘how hasn’t he blown the whistle?'” a bemused Moir told the Star following the game. “The goalie’s behind the net without his helmet, just swarmed. I shot the puck anyway. It’s probably the greasiest goal I’ve ever scored in my life.”
By the time play resumed a smattering of Castlegar fans were climbing the glass at the Nelson and District Community Complex and screaming from the stands, while a water bottle went sailing from the Rebel bench.
That one strange goal aside, it was tough going for the Leafs for most of the game. The Rebels put up the first goal of the night, capitalizing on a power play 10 minutes in.
While Jeff Hodgkinson was able to pick up his first marker since joining the Leafs roster with two minutes to go, 10 seconds later Castlegar took the puck back down the ice and deposited it in the net. A third goal early in the second period gave the Rebels the edge, and the Leafs struggled through 20 minutes with next to no scoring opportunities.
“In the second I don’t think we got any shots on net,” said Moir. “We improved in the third and just ran out of time.”
Dalon Stoddart struck back for the Leafs seven minutes into the third, but when captain Taylor O’Neil went into the penalty box the Rebels scored again.
Moir’s goal five minutes later would end the night, in addition to stealing the show.
“I was excited that it went in and it counted, but I have to say if I was the goalie I wouldn’t be too happy about it,” said Leafs goalie Marcus Beesley. “When you’ve got a guy on top of you like that you hope the ref’s going to at least blow the whistle.”
The Leafs will face down the Rebels again Saturday night for the second half of the home-and-home, and Moir says putting up more shots will be essential. The Leafs only managed 13 shots on the Castlegar net Friday.
“That’s the major thing,” he said. “We’ve just got to take it to them, hit them hard, and maybe score a couple more greasy goals like that.”