After dropping their first two playoff games to Beaver Valley, the Nelson Junior Leafs have to come out fighting this weekend if they’re going make it out of the first round.
“We definitely have to win Friday,” says head coach Chris Shaw.
“We’ve got to win every game. We’ve got four games to win now and it’s a good feeling that we get to come back home, but every game’s crucial.”
Games three and four of the series see the team return to the Nelson and District Community Complex Friday and Saturday after opening the playoffs with one close loss and an inaugural game even Shaw describes as “a nightmare.”
The Tuesday tilt against the Nitehawks saw the team lose 13-2.
“They got a couple quick goals on us at the very start,” says Shaw.
“We had a power play and I thought we had control for the first five minutes of the game. Then we missed the net — we hit a post on an open net — and it seemed like the momentum swung there.”
The Nitehawks piled on seven goals in the first period, and another in the second before the Leafs were able to respond with markers from defencemen Raymond Reimer and Cameron Dobransky.
But the Hawks were back again in the third, with another five goals to make it a double-digit win.
“It seemed like every shot they took went in the net,” says Shaw.
“Once the ball started going downhill it started getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”
The loss of several key players, including captain Taylor O’Neil and leading scorer Colton Schell, because of fighting and misconduct penalties didn’t help matters either.
“At the end of the game we only had five guys left on the bench. It was a pretty humbling experience.”
After getting spanked their first evening out, the team stepped up the second night but again fell short, losing 4-2.
Former BCHLer Dustin Johnson matched the Hawks goal-for-goal for most of the first two periods, but wasn’t able to find a response to a Beaver Valley marker at the tail end of the second. The Hawks put the cap on the night with a final empty net goal.
Shaw says the more even fight of the second game proves there’s still room in the competition for a Leafs’ comeback — but it’s going to require team snipers like Johnson to step up and find the net.
“Right now our top guys who scored for us in the regular season have been limited in the amount of chances they’ve had so far,” he says. “We’ve got to find a way to get those guys the puck and create those chance to score.”
Playoff action begins at 7 p.m. Friday and continues at the same time Saturday.