Just before the puck came his way, Ryan Piva had thought he might hear a whistle.
A Jaiden LaPorte shot rebounded off Rebels goaltender Curt Doyle right to Piva, who believed he had been tripped and was waiting for the call. Instead there was the puck, and an open net in front of him.
“It was just sitting right there, so I just tapped it in,” he said.
The goal in double overtime lifted the Nelson Leafs to a 4-3 win over the Castlegar Rebels on Wednesday, and gave the team a 2-0 series lead in the Neil Murdoch Division final.
It also came one night after Piva scored another winner, also in double OT, in Game 1. And in all likelihood, there’s more overtime hockey to come.
“I hope not, but I’ve got a feeling it might,” said Piva. “We’re two good teams, we both want to win. It’s just whoever brings it.”
Jack Karran, LaPorte and Michael Bladon also scored for Nelson, while Josh Williams had 20 saves.
Doyle made 48 saves for the Rebels, who also had goals from Ed Lindsey, Shawn Campbell and Chris Breese.
Game 3 is on Friday at 4 p.m. in Castlegar.
The Leafs found success Wednesday by emphasizing a quantity of shots over quality shots. Doyle has now faced 90 shots through just two games, and Nelson needs to keep the pressure up if the team wants to beat Castlegar’s red-hot netminder.
But Nelson head coach Mario DiBella said his team did just that and more on Wednesday.
“I thought we pushed the pace their way,” said DiBella. “They got a fortunate break in the second period with the penalty calls, which I thought were a bit liberal as far as the calls were made. It got them back in the game.”
Game 2 began much the same as Game 1 — cautiously. The Rebels had the edge in shots but neither side had a quality chance, and the first 20 minutes played out at a snail’s pace.
Still, the Leafs managed to get on the board two minutes before the first intermission. Rebels defenceman Vince Bitonti was in the box when a Ryan Cooper shot rebounded off Doyle to Karran, who finished the play for the 1-0 lead.
There was more where that came from in the second period for both teams.
LaPorte put the Leafs up by two goals on a pretty breakaway thanks to a saucer pass from Nicholas Wihak less than two minutes after the puck drop. But the lead was short-lived, and Nelson had itself to blame.
Bladon and Jackson Zimmermann took two consecutive penalties, and the Rebels cashed in on the ensuing 5-on-3. Lindsey whipped a wrist shot that beat Williams, and then just 19 seconds later a fast break by Campbell added another to tie the game at two.
Bladon made up for that in the third period. He wired a point shot that appeared to deflect off a Rebels player past Doyle, which restored the Leafs’ lead at 15:29.
It’s goals like that that will make the difference, according to LaPorte.
“We’ve just been putting in the investment,” he said. “Putting on the body, being physical against them. It’s just getting shots, trying to win games, playing hard.”
Once again, Castlegar was quick to respond.
The Leafs were on the power play when Breese swiped the puck and deked through a trailing defender. Williams got a piece of Breese’s first shot, but the puck made its way through, bounced off the post and right back to Breese, who potted the easy goal to tie the game at three.
That was it for scoring in regulation and, as is typical for both teams, the game moved into overtime.
Cooper was levelled minutes into overtime by Aiden Cornell, who was handed 10 minutes for head contact. That put the Leafs on a 5-on-3, albeit without one of their best players after Cooper skated very slowly to the bench en route to the locker-room.
But Nelson failed to make it count, and OT continued.
Leaflets: Nelson was missing F Justin Podgorenko. … An honourable mention to the Leafs’ mascot, who was worth the price of admission with his antics.