No one wanted a tie. No one wanted half measures. The losses were piling up, and the Nelson Leafs needed something better than a moral victory. Only a win would do.
Jordan Davie gave the Leafs that win with a top-shelf goal Tuesday in double overtime that put the Leafs past the Grand Forks Border Bruins 4-3 and snapped a seven-game losing streak.
Davie’s goal, which involved an inside-out move around a defenceman and a pin-point shot over Border Bruins goaltender Nikki Maciurzynski’s shoulder, released all the pressure off a weary team who celebrated as though they’d just won a playoff game.
So no, Davie said, a tie would not have been good enough.
“I’m not even a fan of the tie, honestly. I don’t like it. I’d rather have a shootout or something. I can’t stand ties,” said Davie. “But to come away with the two points, it felt like today that was our only option. Even though we were down 3-0 we knew we were going to win. That was our goal and we did it.”
Samuel Weber, Dashiel Thompson, Levi Hulston also scored for Nelson (14-18-1), while goaltender Patrick Ostermann made 20 saves.
Logan Casavant, Tyler Fyfe, Trey Mason replied for Grand Forks (14-16-3), which relied on Maciurzynski for 38 saves.
Too much physical play cost the Leafs in the first period.
Defenceman Cole Arcuri was sent to the box for roughing and fellow blue-liner Kyle Chernenkoff followed for cross-checking, giving Grand Forks a 5-on-3 man advantage to work with. Nelson did well killing off the first penalty but with 50 seconds left Casavant struck on a slick one-timer to put the Border Bruins up by one.
The Bruins weren’t done, and their next goal appeared to stun the Leafs. Some mild pressure by Grand Forks ended with a lackadaisical point shot from Garret Brisebois that was misdirected by Fyfe past Ostermann with just over a minute left in the first and sent Nelson’s players into the intermission shaking their heads.
The second period started with another surprise goal in favour of the Bruins. A sharp-angle goal by hulking forward Mason fooled Ostermann for a 3-0 lead.
The game, already looking like another Leafs loss, took a turn toward the absurd minutes later.
Malcolm Fenelon seemingly put the Leafs on the scoreboard, but the goal was waved off for a delayed penalty. The call turned out to be a bad one on the part of the refs as it was Border Bruins defender Logan Hascarl sent to the sin bin for holding, which infuriated the Leafs and perplexed fans.
Leafs head coach David McLellan declined to comment on the goal, but did say referee Shawn Peel, for what it’s worth, also ruled the net was off it’s moorings.
Accordingly tempers flared, costing Nelson a chance to retake the stolen goal with Nicholas Ketola charged a bench minor. Yet another contentious scrum in front of the Grand Forks net ended with each team sending a pair of players each into the box.
But instead of resigning themselves to another game of bad luck, the Leafs began to push back.
Nelson poured on the offence – outshooting Grand Forks 17-5 in the second – and was rewarded by a pair of goals by Weber, on the power play at 6:39, and Thompson, with his first of the season, three minutes later.
Thompson, a 16-year-old rookie, grinned when asked what he’s going to do with the puck. “Just keep it in my stall and look at it every day,” he said.
Nelson completed the comeback just 30 seconds into the third. Hulston fired the puck past Maciurzynski and celebrated with a fist into the air that had Nelson’s bench shaking and put some hope into the Leafs’ arena for the first time in recent memory.
“It was perfect for us,” said McLellan. “We’ve had the opposite break. The last time we played Grand Forks we were clearly the better team and got the wrong result so that’s the way the game works.”
There’s still one game left before the holiday break, a road game Wednesday against the Spokane Braves, which meant no one was willing to talk vacation plans just yet. But this win in particular gave the team hope that the worst part of their season was mercifully over.
“Everyone feels good but to break a streak, it’s like a monkey off the back,” said Davie. “It’s like I just lost 10 pounds. It feels unreal.”
Notes: Leafs D Austin Anselmo served the first of his two-game suspension. He was charged with checking from behind and handed a game-misconduct Saturday against the Osoyoos Coyotes. … Injured Leafs F Rayce Miller and D Max Daerendinger remained out. … The Border Bruins played without scratches D Logan Klatt, F Brandon Savaia and F Dylan Haney.