Despite breaking for the holidays on a four-game losing streak, the Nelson Junior Leafs are aiming to come back strong this weekend against Spokane.
“I think a break was needed for us,” said Leafs head coach Frank Maida.
“We went through a stretch in October and played a lot of games, [had] some injuries and I think we’ll start the new year with pretty much everybody healthy hopefully, mentally ready, focused and ready to go.”
The last game the Leafs won was on December 9 against the Castlegar Rebels, and since then they’ve come up short four times in a row, falling twice to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, who are ranked first in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Neil Murdoch Division.
However, coming off a 12-day break, the Leafs will have their chance this weekend to redeem themselves in a home-and-home against Spokane, who arecurrently sitting fourth in the division behind the Leafs.
“Friday will play a big impact on our game Saturday. Both teams will be tired on Saturday, so our Friday game is huge and we need to find a way to play 60 minutes on Friday and then come back Saturday afternoon and want that game even more than the victory on Friday,” said Maida.
“I’m looking for our goaltenders to lead the way and our leaders, the guys who are wearing the letters on their jerseys, to step up and play our system and lead the way.”
Maida said at this point of the season, doing the “little things” like getting the pucks deep, not getting caught and playing a very solid defensive game will help them be successful into the playoffs.
“Getting into a comfortable zone, and not being mentally focused as we get ready at the beginning of games I think is a big contribution to our inconsistency,” said Maida.
“This last quarter is to find a consistent game, stay in our system and prepare for the playoffs.”
With the roster deadline approaching quickly on January 10, Maida said there’s room for one more player and he’s always looking to make a final adjustment for the last quarter of the season.
“We’ve been getting consistent work ethic from most of the players and now we just want everybody to be doing it every day and every game for 60 minutes.”
The Leafs play host to the Braves Saturday at the Nelson and District Community Complex starting at 2 p.m.