Don’t ask Patrick Ostermann about his best save against Grand Forks. He isn’t sure if he had anything to do with it.
The Nelson Leafs goaltender found himself flailing on his back in the third period Thursday with a wide-open net there for the taking by any one of the swarming Border Bruins. One of his opponents fell to the ice and looked to be sweeping the puck into the net for a sure goal.
To everyone’s astonishment, including Ostermann’s, the puck slid safely away. Ostermann was recorded with a save, but how it happened is anyone’s guess.
“Obviously I have no clue,” he said. “I just threw my hand back and I saw it roll out the other side of the post. I was a little surprised myself with getting it. I thought it was in.”
Ostermann finished with 21 saves as Nelson kicked off the first of three games in three nights with a 4-2 win over Grand Forks.
The goalie was even more delighted to see his name on the scorer’s sheet. Ostermann had two assists in the game, something he said has never happened to him before.
“They announced the first one and I was like, sure, and they announced the second one and I was like, well, just my night I guess.”
The grinning goalie had a fan in his head coach after the game.
“Patrick saved the day,” said Mario DiBella. “Not only did he make some monumental saves in key moments, but he also passed a few players on the team in points.”
Blair Andrews scored twice and had two assists, while Kolton Nelson and Kyle Chernenkoff also scored for the Leafs (17-21-1), who tied Grand Forks for third place in the Neil Murdoch Division with the win.
Chad Grambo and Trey Mason scored for the Border Bruins (16-20-3), while Anthony Galliart made 29 saves.
Andrew’s second goal of the game, which came off a rebound after Rayce Miller attempted a wraparound three minutes into the third period to put the Leafs up 3-1, was just his sixth of the season but also his fourth in the last four games.
“Blair Andrews is a giant amongst players here,” said DiBella. “He’s one of the players that has responded to everything that we’ve asked and he’s just a pleasure to coach.”
A laugher of a goal put Nelson up by another goal. Chernenkoff took the puck from Ostermann and dumped the puck into the Border Bruins’ zone from centre ice, but the bounce confused Galliart and it went past him.
Grand Forks clawed one back soon after. The puck appeared to be underneath Ostermann but Mason slipped it across the line in the middle of a big scrum to cut Nelson’s lead to two.
The third devolved into a series of penalties. The worst occurred Brendan Smith, back with the Leafs for the first time since October, left the ice bent over favouring his left shoulder. Smith was tripped to the ice by Border Bruins centre Austin Dean, who was also assessed a game misconduct on the play. Smith later returned to the game, and DiBella said all Smith suffered was a hyperextended shoulder.
First periods haven’t been kind to Nelson lately, but the Leafs hustled to start the game and were rewarded with the early lead when Andrews beat Galliart on a backhand at 10:22.
Grand Forks tied the game on a pretty play four minutes later. Dylan Haney found Grambo on a long pass that bounced past Nelson’s defence. Grambo collected the puck alone and beat Ostermann on a slick backhand deke.
Nelson was more than happy to benefit from a lucky bounce with two minutes left in the period. A shot from the point by Zach Morey went wide but bounced right to Kolten Nelson, who took advantage to put the Leafs up 2-1. Ostermann meanwhile earned his place on a highlight reel with his aforementioned goal-line save moments later.
The Leafs escaped the second period unscathed despite having to kill off a pair of 5-on-3s and seven penalties total.
After Morey was handed a questionable cross-checking penalty the referee also sent Rayce Miller to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct after he argued the call. Nelson held the line but had to do it all over again just over five minutes later on a holding penalty for Levi Hulston and a cross-checking penalty to Riley Swiscoski.
“Our goalie played awesome,” said Andrews. “Our [penalty] killers played great. We battled back and just kept playing as a team.”
The period ended with the score unchanged and plenty of hard feelings between the Leafs bench and the officiating crew. Nelson finished with 10 penalties against, but managed to hold the Border Bruins to no power-play goals.
When asked about the refereeing, always dangerous waters for a head coach to wade into, DiBella quipped: “I don’t have to comment, that speaks for itself.”
Notes: Leafs G Josh Williams, acquired prior to Sunday’s trade deadline, was not available for the game. F Cleary Ambrose, meanwhile, made his debut with the team after being signed last week. F Swiscoski, called up from the major midget Kootenay Ice, also had his first appearance with the Leafs. … Nelson next visits the Fernie Ghostriders on Friday before returning home to face the league-leading Kimberley Dynamiters on Saturday.