As the KIJHL’s regular season winds down, the pressure on the Nelson Junior Leafs continues.
After two consecutive games against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, the Leafs have another home-and-home ahead of them this weekend against an even tougher rival.
The Leafs host the Castlegar Rebels Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Nelson and District Community Complex, before heading down the highway for an away battle Saturday.
The Rebels come into the two game set perched atop the Neil Murdoch division, and only two points behind the Kootenay Conference leading Fernie Ghostriders.
But while they’ve posted wins in nine of their last 10 games, the Rebels’ only recent blemish came the last time they set foot in the NDCC.
The late January game saw the Leafs finally break a five-game losing streak against the Rebels, winning the contest 5-3.
With what had become one of the Leafs’ biggest stumbling blocks finally conquered, head coach and general manager Chris Shaw says he’s hoping to see another strong outing when Castlegar returns to town.
“We can play with them,” he says. “This last month I thought we played some pretty good hockey. We had a couple overtime losses, some really close games. I think we’re moving in the right direction, and to play against a team like Castlegar, they’re just any other team in the league.”
This is the last time Nelson will play a Murdoch team in the regular season. (Another two game series with the Creston Valley Thundercats rounds out the schedule next weekend.) But if the team can make it past Beaver Valley in the first round of post-season action, it’s more than likely they’ll have to face the Rebels once again.
“They’ve clinched the division and they’re a confident bunch over there, and they’re a good hockey team,” notes Shaw. “They’re not going to lose too many games. But when you get to the playoffs it’s an entirely new season.”