The Nelson Leafs now have a three point lead over the Castlegar Rebels in the fight for first place in the Neil Murdoch division.
The local squad increased its lead thanks to a 4-1 victory over the Grand Forks Border Bruins on Wednesday night.
After allowing an early first period goal, Nelson turned up the heat and dominated the rest of the game.
When the final whistle blew, the Leafs had outshot their opponents 38-13 and earned their second win in a row.
Rayce Miller was a key factor in the win, scoring three goals to pace the Nelson offence.
“There were some good passes from my teammates. (Dylan) Williamson and (Darnel) St. Pierre gave me two real good ones and the empty net one was pretty easy,” said a humble Miller.
The hat trick gives Miller 28 points on the season, tied for the team lead.
“I’m just trying to play hard, get the puck to the net. We stress that alot. Just throw the puck on net. It’s just working out for me,” he explained.
A mid-week game is rare for the Leafs and Miller said preparing for the contest was unusual.
“It was kind of weird. The middle of the week games are always kind of weird. But, with points on the line, we just come ready every night.”
In the early going it seemed that the Wednesday night game caught the Leafs napping.
“They got the first one, but (Adam) Maida battled back and so did we so it worked out good in the end. So it was perfect,” said Miller.
The Border Bruins opened the scoring in the first two minutes of the game when Michael Rand put the puck past Adam Maida.
It would be the only goal the visitors would get.
Later in the opening frame, Miller scored his first goal to tie the game at 1-1.
In the second period, the Leafs increased the lead to 2-1 when Matt MacDonald beat Bruins netminder Jacob Mullen.
Miller scored his second of the night before the end of the middle frame.
Despite many chances, the Leafs did not score in the third period until Miller popped one into the empty net as time was running out.
Maida picked up another win, stopping 12 of 13 shots he faced while Mullen stopped 35 of 38 shots in a losing cause.
After the game, Leafs head coach Dave McLellan said his squad dominated play for much of the game.
“We played down I think a little bit in the first, but then carried the play throughout the rest of the game. I don’t know how may scoring chances we had that we didn’t capitalize on,” said the coach.
But he also saw some bad habits on the ice during Wednesday’s game.
“We get a little too fancy trying to make plays we don’t normally make because we think we have more time and space.”
November has been an important month for the Nelson squad as many of the games have been against divisional opponents.
“I identified November as a really important month at the beginning of the season. If we are above .700 it would be really good in this month. We probably would make the separation from some of the teams in our division so we’re on track,” said McLellan.
The divisional battle continue on Saturday when the Nelson Leafs play host to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
Puck drops at 7 p.m. at the Nelson and District Community Complex.