The race for first place in the Neil Murdoch Division of the KIJHL is tighter than ever, but the Nelson Leafs are still hanging on to top spot.
The Leafs split a pair of weekend road game, losing 6-4 to Castlegar on Saturday then bouncing back to defeat Beaver Valley 4-1 on Sunday to maintain a one-point lead over the second place Castlegar Rebels.
Beaver Valley sits in third place, just two points behind Nelson.
Saturday’s game against the Rebels was a tought loss for Nelson.
The locals fell behind fast allowing the first three goals on just three shots.
Goaltender Adam Maida struggled and was pulled from between the pipes after the Rebels Darren Medeiros, Bryan Lubin and Tyler Barrett all found the back of the net.
Nelson’s Patrick Croome scored to make it 3-1 after one period.
Castlegar had the only goal of the middle frame as Medeiros popped in his second of the game.
The third was a high-scoring affair.
The Leafs Austin Lindsay scored to make it 4-2 but the Rebels quickly regained a three-goal cushion thanks to Medeiros’s hattrick goal.
Cal Owens scored again for the Rebels to put the contest out of reach.
Goals by Nelson’s Rayce Miller and Robson Cramer made the final score more respectable.
“I actually thought we outplayed them dramatically throughout the whole game,” said Leafs head coach Dave McLellan.
“We battled back in the third too, but we didn’t get the result. It’s pretty tough to come back from 3-0.”
The coach said mistakes on the ice cost his squad on several occasions.
“To be honest, I don’t think they (the Rebels) earned a single goal. We gift-wrapped them for them.”
The following day, the Leafs traveled to Fruitvale to take on the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
This time it was Nelson that scored early, thanks to powerplay goal by Miller.
The 1-0 lead held up until the second period when the Nitehawks tied the game, thanks to a marker by Ross Armour.
It was all Nelson after that.
Cramer gave the Leafs a 2-1 lead before the end of the second. Third period goals by Austin Lindsay and Darnel St. Pierre sealed the victory for Nelson.
Joey Karrer was strong in net for the Leafs, stopping 36 of 37 shots.
“We played a really solid game. It was a tough fought game, both teams played really well.”
The coach said goaltending was a key factor in the win.
“We got excellent goaltending, it made a big difference,” said McLellan.
The Leafs lost two points after the KIJHL stripped the local club of a win for using an inelegible player.
McLellan said the whole situation was an oversight.
“We understood that BC Hockey was going to place him on our roster.”
The player, who was not named, has been practising with the squad and played in one game. However he was never carded to play.
McLellan said he has now been registered and will be added to the roster this week.
“It is what it is, we’ll just move on.”