The Nelson Leafs delivered in front of a holiday crowd hungry for hockey last night at the Nelson and District Community Complex. Battling Spokane Braves for a 3-1 win, the home team proved they were equally hungry for a win.
In a match heated from the get go, first period action was dominated by penalties. Early in the game, Leafs Dallon Stoddart was called for boarding while teammates Cam Weir and Braves Sean Collins took penalties for roughing after the whistle. Spokane’s Alex Peltram was also penalized for roughing – all at 1:26.
The intensity of the game thrilled a crowd of 542 at the local rink and the feeling that these teams weren’t fast friends continued with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties by Leafs Carson Willans and Braves Kurtis Redding with 12:50 remaining in the first period.
The first goal of the game came shortly there after with Spokane’s Dylan Tappe making it 1-0 at 11:46. Line mates Matt Thurston and Paxton Bell got the assists.
Late in the second period, Spokane’s Peltram took his second penalty of the game giving the Leafs the advantage. Patient on the power play, Leafs’ Dustin Reimer scored the tying goal. Seth Schmidt and Willans assisted making it 1-1 at the end of the second period.
Third period action saw the Leafs continue to press the Braves. Brandon Sookro got the go-ahead goal at 6:09 into the period. Spokane’s Brycen Fisher was off the ice for hooking and Nelson capitalized. Weir and Colton Schell assisted.
Eager for the insurance goal, the Leafs had several great scoring chances late in the game keeping the crowd in it until the end. With only 4 minutes 30 seconds left in the game Cole Arcuri was sent off the ice for checking from behind, also garnering a game misconduct.
The home team killed the two-minute penalty as action heated up even further and the crowd was on the edge of their seats.
With under a minute left in the game, the Braves called a time-out and when play resumed they’d pulled their goalie hoping to tie the game. Shut down, the Leafs took advantage of an empty net making the final score 3-1. Stoddart put the puck in with help from Aaron Dunlap and JJ Beitel.
The games first star went to Nelson goalie Brett Soles who helped his team shut down the Braves’ power play. Spokane’s goalie Matt Zenzola was given the game’s second star while Nelson’s Sookro took third star honors.
In other KIJHL action, Beaver Valley Nitehawks took down Castlegar Rebels keeping the neighbouring rivals four points back of the league leading Leafs.
A second round of the Braves/Leafs home-and-home series is slated for tonight in Spokane. Puck drops at 7 p.m.
Castlegar and Beaver Valley play again tonight before the Nitehawks move onto Nelson for an afternoon game on New Years Eve. That game starts at 2:30 at the NDCC.