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Leafs’ losing streak stretches to 7 after falling to Coyotes in OT

Nelson blew several leads en route to the 6-5 loss

No one may need a holiday break more than the Nelson Leafs.

Mired in a long losing streak, a Leafs team desperate for a win blew three three-goal leads against the determined and very skilled Osoyoos Coyotes on Saturday.

It felt inevitable from the start that the Coyotes would rally to tie the game and then win in overtime, which they did 6-5 to hand the Leafs their seventh consecutive loss.

One night after the Leafs fell in overtime to the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, Nelson captain Bennett Anklewich said Saturday was another game when they squandered what should have been a comfortable lead.

“We had a two-goal lead last night, it slipped away from us. We had a three-goal lead tonight, it slipped away from us,” said Anklewich. “I think we just need to regroup.”

That much was clear to everyone, on and off the ice.

Jarrod Gale scored in overtime for the Coyotes, who had three unanswered goals in a third period during which they outshot Nelson 13-2.

Ethan McKinley scored twice for the Coyotes (16-7-3), while Jack Henderson, Levi Brewer and Carter Yarish added singles. Goaltender Kenny Gerow allowed three goals on nine shots before being replaced by Rhett Harkot, who made 15 saves and was rarely tested.

Drake Procter, Lucas Byrne, Leighton Partington, Owen Ditzel and Seamus Boyd scored for the Leafs (14-8-4), with Jasper Tait making 33 saves.

Nelson head coach Adam DiBella was visibly frustrated with his team after the game.

“If there’s a new way to lose games we haven’t found it yet,” he said.

“I’d like to see more out of our leadership group tonight in a game like that. We looked a little timid and afraid in the third period, and ultimately the ability to win the game was lost because we stopped moving our feet and we played afraid to lose.”

Osoyoos looked dangerous early but the Leafs took quick control of the game with two goals in less than a minute.

First, Proctor put the Leafs on the board at 16:36. He stole the pick at the Coyotes’ blueline, circled back alone around the defence and wired a wrist shot that Gerow was too slow to react to.

Then just 25 seconds later, Nelson forward Seamus Boyd won a faceoff in the Osoyoos zone. The puck bounced to Byrne who snapped a quick shot for the 2-0 lead.

Partington made it 3-0 on a goal that surprised everyone in the arena. He was alone on Gerow’s stick side when his shot from a sharp angle flipped over the goalie and in. That goal ended Gerow’s night and Harkot took over.

The Coyotes returned to the ice after the first intermission looking like a team that had regrouped. They dominated possession, pressured the Leafs constantly in their own end and were rewarded with a goal about halfway through the period. The visitors were on a power play when Henderson slipped a low shot past Tait.

“They’re very skilled,” Anklewich said of the visitors. “They’re tenacious, they don’t give up even though they are down three. They knew they were in the game the whole time.”

The Leafs regained their three-goal lead when the puck bounced out of a faceoff to the front of the Harkot’s crease where Ditzel was waiting with a stick and a goal.

But the visitors scored once more with just 0.6 seconds left to the second intermission. A saucer pass found a wide-open Brewer, whose nasty wrist shot beat Tait glove side.

Osoyoos again looked dangerous to start the third, but four minutes in it was the Leafs again. Ryan Quast won a battle in the corner and got the puck to Boyd, who turned and fired a hard shot for a goal only moments after he’d left the penalty box.

The Coyotes refused to break. Less than a minute later Tait was caught out of position with a loose puck just waiting in the crease for McKinley to score.

Nelson never really looked in control even when playing with the lead. Osoyoos again cut the Leafs’ advantage to just one goal just two seconds after their penalty ended. Yarish used terrific speed to take the zone, sweep in front of Tait and score on a slick backhand.

“We lost the game tonight because of our puck management in the third period,” said DiBella. “It wasn’t anything [Osoyoos] did. Our puck management in the third period wasn’t good enough.”

No one was surprised then when Osoyoos tied the game with 3:45 remaining. McKinley was waiting for the one-timer and he connected perfectly to complete the comeback and ensure overtime.

Nelson’s next game is Dec. 30 at home to the Castlegar Rebels. Anklewich said his message to the team when everyone returns will be to relax. One win and he thinks the Leafs will be back to playing like the team that at one point lead the division earlier this season.

“Once we get one the floodgates are going to open and we’re going to start winning again.”

@tyler_harper |
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Tyler Harper

About the Author: Tyler Harper

I’m editor-reporter at the Nelson Star, where I’ve worked since 2015.
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