Darnel St. Pierre of the Nelson Leafs crashes into the net being guarded by Spokane Braves goaltender Jon Manlow. The Leafs beat Spokane 4-3 on Sunday afternoon.

Leafs edge Braves 4-3

Nelson takes an early lead, hangs on to defeat Spokane in KIJHL action.

Nelson got back on the winning track Sunday as the Leafs KIJHL hockey squad beat the Spokane Braves 4-3.

It looked as though the Leafs would dominate their American foes in the early going as the locals opened up a 3-1 lead after one period.

Brandon Sookro got the offence going, putting the puck past Spokane goaltender Zach Straza at the seven-minute mark of the first.

Fans barely had the chance to sit back down when, two minutes later, the Leafs’ Darnel St. Pierre put another puck past Straza to give the home  squad a 2-0 lead.

Spokane got one back when Sean Collins bulged the twine behind Leafs’ netminder Brad Rebagliati to narrow the gap to 2-1.

Linden Horswill restored the Leafs two-goal lead by adding one more tally before the end of the first.

The apparant blowout continued in the second when, 37 seconds into the middle frame, Travis Wellman gave the Leafs a 4-1 lead.

But that would be the last goal the Leafs would score on the night.

The Braves began to battle back, getting more and more scoring chances as the period wore on.

Kurtis Redding found the back of the net to make the score 4-2 at the end of the second.

“They are a good team and they played us a good game and played it tight. They got back in the game,” said Frank Maida, Leafs head coach.

The third period was fairly even, but the Leafs started to take some minor penalties as the Braves continued to press. The play went back and forth as both squads had chances to score.

With only 10 seconds to go in the game, the Braves hit the scoreboard again as Justin Bonanno scored to make it 4-3.

However it was too little, too late.

“We kept pushing and their goaltender made some key saves at key times. They’re a good team and they played us hard today,’ said Maida.

The coach did say his squad ran into some penalty trouble, but managed to work through it.

“The PK (penalty kill) was good today. They got a goal close at the end, closer than we like, but that’s the way it goes.

Rebagliati picked up the win, stopping 30 of 33 shots for the home squad. Both Straza and backup Jon Manlow played in the Spokane nets.

On Friday, the Leafs dropped a 5-2 decision to the Border Bruins in Grand Forks. It’s a game that, on paper, the Leafs should have won, especially  after taking a 2-0 lead early.

“We just had a let down in the game. They took advantage of it and we just didn’t get back into our game,” said Maida.

He said the squad has learned from it and that showed in today’s game against the Braves.

The Leafs will now play three straight home games. The locals will take on the Castlegar Rebels on Friday, January 24, the Grand Forks Border Bruins on Saturday, January 25 and the Rebels again on Wednesday, January 29. All three games start at 7 p.m. at the Nelson and District Community Complex.

“We are having a little home stand and we will be ready for the teams going in.”

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