It’s not the result the Nelson Junior Leafs were looking for, but head coach Frank Maida is reflecting on a three game road swing in a positive light.
The local juniors dropped the first two games of the weekend to Princeton and Kelowna, but on Sunday rebounded to take out Okanagan/Shuswap Division leader Osoyoos.
“I’m feeling good about how we finished the weekend,” Maida told the Star on Monday morning.
In Friday night’s tilt against the Princeton Posse, a slow start haunted the Leafs in the final outcome. The game wasn’t even four minutes old and the Leafs had fallen behind 2-0 on goals by Jaden Janzen and Adam Demchuk.
“It’s like we were still on the bus and the game has started,” Maida said. “We need to find a way to have the legs come with us off the bus.”
Seven minutes into the first period, Leafs rookie Carson Willans cut the lead to one.
Despite outshooting the Posse 26-13 over the first 40 minutes, Princeton goaltender Phoenix Logan-Hill held his team in the game and the score remained 2-1.
Early in the third period, Princeton forward Eric Kubis beat Nelson starter Andrew Walton to give his team a 3-1 edge. Thirty seconds later, Leafs call-up Colton Dawson again put Nelson within striking distance with his first KIJHL goal. That spread only lasted nine seconds, however, as Posse forward Kurtis Bond gave Princeton the 4-2 lead they would not relinquish.
“We outshot them, but just couldn’t score,” said Maida. “So that was a tough loss.”
One of the bright spots of the evening was the play of Dawson who was brought on the trip on loan from the Nelson Midget Rep team.
“He played very well on short notice,” said Maida. “He scored a big goal for us when we were getting back into the game. It was nice to see.”
On Saturday night at Kelowna’s Rutland Arena, the Leafs and Chiefs battled hard to a 1-1 tie in the first period. And though Maida’s troops made good on a pledge to start better, it was the second period that caused the team’s downfall when Kelowna came out with three unanswered goals to take a 4-1 lead. Third period goals by Leafs forwards Max Mois and Colton Schell were not enough and the Chiefs cruised to a 6-3 victory.
“They are better than their record shows,” Maida said of the Chiefs who have now beaten the Leafs twice this season. “Their forwards are fast and their goaltenders have had good games against us. I don’t know the details about what their situation is, but they seem to play well against us.”
The loss to Kelowna was the Leafs’ fifth in a row and it spurred a team meeting after the game.
“I told them Saturday night after the game that it’s back to basics and hard work,” said Maida.
“You never want to lose, but if we learn from it and learn to play through it then there can be an upside. Come playoffs you are not going to win every game and you need to bounce back. This weekend we lost two tough games, but bounced back on Sunday.”
The Coyotes scored the first goal of the game Sunday when Scotty Patterson beat Walton who was starting his second game of the weekend.
With six minutes left in the opening period, the Leafs responded when Matti Jmaeff scored on the powerplay. One minute later Brett Norman made the score 2-1 for the Leafs.
The teams traded powerplay goals in the second period and midway through the third Kam Crawford tied the score for Osoyoos.
With five minutes left to play, Leafs leading scorer Patrick Martens notched the game winner and the Nelson escaped the tough roadtrip with two of a possible six points.
“I stress that we have to take one period at a time and in Osoyoos we won each period,” said Maida. “On the way to Osoyoos I felt the energy on the bus. I could tell we were going to get a great effort and we did.”
IN THE CREASE: The weekend stumble has allowed the Castlegar Rebels to close the gap on the Leafs and now sit one point behind in the Neil Murdoch Division… On Tuesday the Leafs made a deal with Kelowna to acquire defenceman Eric Spring. The blueliner is the brother of Michael Spring who played forward for the Leafs between 2008 and 2010… The Leafs’ next game is Thursday night when they travel to Fernie to take on the Ghostriders. The next Leafs home game is this Saturday at the NDCC against the Grand Forks Border Bruins.