Nelson Leafs forward Matt MacDonald goes sliding into Castlegar Rebels goaltender Austin Wells during the Leafs 2-1 win on Saturday night.

KIJHL: Leafs edge Rebels, regain top spot

Nelson defeated Castlegar 2-1 on Saturday night to regain first place in the division.

The Nelson Leafs are back in first place.

The Leafs defeated the Castlegar Rebels 2-1 on Saturday to regain a share of top spot in the Neil Murdoch Division of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. The Leafs now have 38 points, tied with the Rebels, but Nelson has a game in hand.

Drew Carter and Race Miller scored for Nelson while Ryan Rosich answered for Castlegar.

Adam Maida had a strong game in the Leafs’ net stopping 29 of 30 shots while Austin Wells stopped 34 of 36 shots.

After the game, Leafs captain Aaron Dunlap said it was a big win for the team.

Everyone wants to be in first place. It was super emotional out there, the emotions were running high. Right now you want these wins to separate yourself,” he said.

The low scoring contest was a contrast compared to the game on Friday night.

We just played super defensive today and stuck to the game plan. Yesterday we did really well, but bounces weren’t on our side,” said Dunlap referring to Friday night’s 5-4 overtime loss in Castlegar.

The Leafs have been playing well of late, despite having to deal with a short bench due to injuries. Currently Nelson only has four active defencemen.

We just have to come back more for back checking. We do that anyway, but we have two forwards right now playing D, so everyone is buying in to help out. Our defence is getting super tired, there’s just four of them. But their doing a hell of a job.” said Dunlap.

Leafs head coach Dave McLellan agreed saying his team’s work ethic has been solid during this challenging time.

For us, so decimated with injuries, it’s huge for us to come out with three points out of four,” said McLellan.

It was an intense game. Again, I thought we really outplayed them and if you look at some of the chances that we didn’t score on, this game is probably five or six to one,” he added.

McLellan said several players stepped up their game on Saturday to make the win happen. He credited Robson Cramer, Darnel St. Pierre, Adam Maida, Sam Weber, Michael Crawford and Matt MacDonald as standouts.

I have to give our guys a lot of credit. They stuck to the game plan and I think they executed a really good game.”

Nelson’s next home game takes place on Tuesday, December 2 when the Spokane Braves visit the Nelson and District Community Complex.

Puck drops at 7 p.m.

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