The Nelson Leafs gave their hometown fans an early Christmas present by crushing the Grand Forks Border Bruins 8-2 on Friday night.
The win keeps Nelson in a first place tie with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, who beat the Castlegar Rebels 4-3.
Grand Forks opened the scoring in the first two minutes of the game when Coleman Macdonald put the puck past Joey Karrer in the Leafs net. But after that it was all Nelson.
Aaron Dunlap tied the game at one, then Branden Chow and Rayce Miller scored to make it 3-1 after one.
The offensive onslaught continued in the second period as Timothy Nichols, playing his first game since being injured last month, scored to make it 4-1. Matthew Brind’Amour also scored in the second.
With the game well in hand, Nelson cruised to victory in the third.
Nichols and Dunlap both scored their second of the game while Matt MacDonald also bulged the twine.
Early in the third, Chow got into the first fight of his KIJHL career as he went toe-to-toe with the Border Bruins Logan Hascarl.
Karrer picked up the win for Nelson, stopping 29 of 31 shots he faced.
Bruins goaltender Brandon Locket stopped 11 of 16 shots while Jacob Mullen stopped 21 of 24 shots in relief.
After the game, Chow, holding an ice bag to his mouth, said the fight was just a matter of the right timing.
“I just wanted to show the team that I would drop the gloves for them and I felt like it was an appropriate time. It’s just the way it goes. I just wanted to get my first fight over with,” said Chow.
As for the game itself, Chow said it was business as usual on the ice.
“We just stuck to our game plan as usual. The boys are really excited about winter break and we really wanted the win.”
Nichols is less excited about the break. Having just returned from injury, he would rather keep playing. However, he knows the team, that has been struck by the injury bug, can use a rest.
“It definitely benefits the team quite a lot. We’re missing a bunch of guys so it’s huge to get some guys back after Christmas,” said Nichols.
While he said he was tired on the ice, Nichols didn’t show any rust, scoring two goals on the night.
“I felt pretty good out there.”
He, like some of his teammates, was surprised to see Chow drop the gloves during the game.
“He did pretty well for his size. He’s not very tall. I know he’s been hitting the gym,” said Nichols with a smile.
Assistant coach Sean Dooley was also caught off guard by the fisticuffs.
“He had a bit of an itch and he’s been talking about it for awhile and he’s had an ongoing battle with one of the guys on the other team. It escalated tonight. He did something we didn’t really expect him to do as coaches,” said Dooley.
As for the play on the ice, Dooley said his squad did well, especially Nichols.
“He played excellent. He did everything we asked of him. He’s a good player. A top six forward.”
Like the players, Dooley believes the break will be a big benefit for Nelson.
“We definitely need a break, just coming from the injury side of things. It will be nice to get that little bit of time to rest up and heal some of those bumps and bruises.”
The Leafs don’t play again until December 30 when they travel to Fruitvale to battle the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.