Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Castlegar Rebels will be the last of four before the regular season begins for the yet to be named Leafs team roster.
The Nelson Leafs took to the ice for the first exhibition game of the season winning 3-2 against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks last Thursday in Nelson. But more important than the score of game was how the 20 young athletes performed as 35 players participate in the Leafs main training camp, all vying for 23 positions on the 2015/16 team.
While head coach David McLellan said it’s typical for exhibition games start off choppy, the play in the first period got better as the game progressed and felt the forechecking was good.
McLellan said during exhibition games no player is set to a specific position and there are no set lines to allow the younger players a chance to showcase their skills. Assistant coach Greg Andrusak coached the team from the bench while McLellan focused on observing the athletes play.
With a 2-0 lead the Leafs carried the play for a good portion of the second, despite slipping back late in the period. In the third, Beaver Valley fought back scoring two goals. However the Leafs scored their third and final goal of the game with less than six minutes left and held their lead for the win.
“The third was kind of a tie between the two teams overall so I was happy,” said McLellan. “Lots of players who I thought should play well, did play well. I don’t even think we had anyone play that poorly so it was a pretty good night for our guys.”
As for the evening standouts McLellan said there were a few: Eamonn Miller, Tanner Costa, and Kyle Chernenkoff. And there were more.
“Both goaltenders Nathan Spark and Joe Barton had really good games as well,” he said, adding returning veteran Austin Lindsay had a very good game. “It was good to see him step up and help, there’s a pretty young roster there,” said McLellan.
Brendan Smith, another Leafs veteran, also had a good game.
Second exhibition game
The Leafs took a heck of a kicking in Fruitvale Saturday night for the second exhibition game against the Nitehawks, losing 6-2.
McLellan said the game play was typical of an exhibition game: sloppy in the first from both teams. As for the trouncing, McLellan said: “We gift wrapped four goals for them. We had a lot of inexperience out there but that’s what it’s all about; we have to give them a chance to try to make the team.”
Game standouts were Dash Thompson and Andy Fitzpatrick, who is one of their top recruits. Fitzpatrick, like several of the players had just arrived from Calgary. Although he started off a bit sloppy in the first period, McLellan noticed him in the second half. Levi Hulston is another top recruit who McLellan said started sloppy but really picked it up in the second and third.
Veteran Brendan Smith stood out with some good checks and was involved. And McLellan credited both goaltenders, Kurt Doyle and Nathan Spark for a game well played.
By Sunday, they had moved to phase two of the camp and were down to 23 players, although the head coach said they might still carry two or three extra for the rest of the week.
The third exhibition game is Tuesday against the Castlegar Rebels at the Nelson Community Complex at 7 p.m.
The regular season begins on Sept.11 in Nelson against the Kelowna Chiefs. For a complete schedule visit www.nelsonleafs.ca.