Shawn Grobowsky saw the puck bounce off the glass and fly toward him. He had only a moment to prepare his shot, but that moment seemed to take its time.
“It felt like forever to come down,” he said after scoring in overtime to give the Nelson Leafs a 3-2 win over the Grand Forks Border Bruins on Saturday.
Grobowsky capitalized after his teammate Reid Wilson’s wrist shot missed Border Bruins goaltender Dillon Beebe only to ricochet off the glass back at the waiting Grobowsky.
The win gives Nelson its second straight victory after the team opened the season winless through six games.
“It’s awesome,” said Grobowsky. “I think things are getting rolling here and everyone knows their place now. We’re all clicking. Two wins is great but it’s obviously not enough. We’ve got to continue throughout the season working hard.”
Brady Miller and Kaleb Comishin also scored for the Leafs (2-3-3), while Anderson Violette made 18 saves.
Josh Garlough-Bell and Nathan Cohen-Wallis each scored for the Border Bruins (3-5-1), with Beebe stopping 33 shots.
Despite the poor start, the Leafs still managed to earn three points during the losing streak. Along with Friday’s 5-1 win in Summerland, that meant two wins was all the Leafs needed to leapfrog over Grand Forks and Castlegar for third place in the Neil Murdoch Division.
“It’s long overdue,” said Leafs coach Mario DiBella. “I don’t think our record is indicative of necessarily how we’ve played. We’ve caught a few bad breaks and we’ve underachieved in a few positions. Certainly great last night and again tonight to get the effort we kind we had out of our veterans.”
The Leafs controlled possession out of the gate and were rewarded after Grand Forks took a too-many-men penalty. Comishin’s point shot found Miller’s stick and the deflection gave Nelson a 1-0 lead seven minutes into regulation.
An officiating error appeared to deny Nelson another goal six minutes later. The Leafs banged a rebound past Beebe, but play had already been called dead by an official who may have thought Beebe had the puck.
Violette, playing in just his second game for Nelson, made a pair of stunning saves moments later, including one where he dived from a seated position to deny a Border Bruins shooter.
Nelson had already played three goaltenders by the time it traded for Violette on Sept. 30. He said the team wants him to bring stability to the position.
“They just want me to be the guy,” he said. “They want me to be the guy who can come in and win games, ultimately. Be a part of the team, be a team guy, help out, just do everything right.”
Despite Nelson dominating play, Grand Forks tied the game with two minutes left in the period. Garlough-Bell whipped a wrist shot that surprised Violette after a nice tape-to-tape pass from Jordan DeGouw.
A more evenly played second period came to a head with three minutes to play.
Leafs forward Tyler Pisiak had a breakaway but couldn’t convert on Beebe. Play returned to the Leafs’ zone, where Cohen-Wallis was left alone on Violette’s glove side. He took a pass and flipped into the top corner to give Grand Forks a 2-1 lead.
Nelson looked in need of a shot in the arm to start the third when Garlough-Bell hit Leafs forward Bryden Pow hard from behind into the boards and was tossed from the game.
It took the Leafs three minutes to convert, and they did it on a lucky deflection. Comishin fired a shot that was off target, but bounced off Border Bruins defenceman Matthieu Guimond and in to tie the game.
Last season the Leafs reeled off seven straight wins to start the campaign and romped to an easy division title before bowing out in the second round.
This year, they’ll hope a rough start leads to future success.
“I think championships aren’t won in September, but our goal is to get better every time we step on the ice and to continue to improve and work on the things that make us better,” said DiBella.
Leaflets: Nelson next hosts the Spokane Braves on Tuesday. … The Leafs were playing without F Joe Davidson, F Shawn Campbell, F David Sanchez and D Ryan Janowski.