The Nelson Leafs started the regular season strong in Castlegar winning 3-0, but weren’t able to fend off the Rebels on home ice on Saturday night.
The Leafs came out of the chute hot on Friday night with veteran Coleton Malmsten scoring the first goal of the game followed by two goals by fellow Leafs vet Patrick Martens.
The Rebels kept Nelson goaltender Andrew Walton hard at work, but the first year Leaf was able to block all 26 shots on net.
“In game one, Andrew really held us in on the penalty kill,” said Leafs head coach and general manager Frank Maida. “He made some timely saves. The team reacted and played really well and scored some timely goals.”
When the puck dropped on home ice, Leafs fans were kept on the edge of their seats as the Neil Murdoch Division rivals played a tight game going goal for goal until the third period.
Martens led the way scoring the first goal of the night, but the Rebels came back strong with their first with only minutes left in the opening period.
Starting the second period the Rebels took the lead, but weren’t able to maintain it for long. The Leafs tied the game with a goal by Colton Schell.
Nelson notched their third goal of the night and briefly took the lead, but with only two minutes and 10 seconds left in the second frame, the Rebels’ Dylan Houle tied the game making the score 3-3 going into the third period.
The Leafs led the way with shots on goal 26-16, but it was the Rebels who broke the tie with their fourth goal of the game.
Unfortunately the Leafs weren’t able to regain momentum and Castlegar skated away with a 6-3 win.
Kelowna raised goaltender Patrick Defoe gave Walton the night off on Saturday, but Maida did not confirm whether or not Defoe would become the team’s second goalie.
“He’s trying,” Maida said. “He’s with the team now, and we’ll make a decision on the weekend.”
Maida said overall the weekend games went well.
“For the majority of those two games we worked for close to 60 minutes and I saw some kids really step it up,” he said.
The Leafs will be working on their powerplay and penalty kill as they look towards the weekend’s games that start Friday night with a tilt against the Kelowna Chiefs at the Nelson and District Community Complex. On Saturday the scene shifts south as the locals travel to Spokane to take on the Braves who return to Nelson on Sunday afternoon.