The strategy worked for Team Canada during the Olympics and it worked for the Nelson Leafs on Tuesday night.
Team defence powered the local squad to a 2-1 victory over the Spokane Braves in the opening game of the best of seven playoff series.
Nelson played a hard-hitting, tight checking game, holding the Braves to just 12 shots in the first two periods.
After a scoreless first period, the Leafs took a 1-0 lead in the second thanks to a goal by Travis Wellman.
For a while it appeared that may be the only goal of the game. However, early in the third, Carson Willans took a pass from Adam Hodge and put the puck past Spokane netminder Jon Manlow to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead.
It proved to be the winning goal as late in the third – with Nelson running into penalty trouble – Spokane managed to break Adam Maida’s shutout bid with 11 seconds left in the game to make the final 2-1.
After the game, Willans said the victory was a total team effort.
“We stuck to our game plan, played defensive hockey and capitalized on a few of our chances.”
Nelson is a young team and for many players this was their first taste of post season play.
“We got the first game out of the way. For a lot of the rookies it’s their first playoff game so they were a bit jittery,” said Willans.
As for the tight defence, Willans said fans will be seeing a lot more of that style of game.
“Defence first that’s what we are going to play the rest of the year. That’s what the playoffs are all about, one goal games,” said Willans.
The Leafs play game two of the series against Spokane on Wednesday night at the Nelson and District Community Complex. Puck drops at 7 p.m.