The Nelson Leafs took to the ice for the first exhibition game of the season winning 3-2 against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks tonight in Nelson. But more important than the score of tonight’s game was how the 20 young athletes performed as 35 players in total are participating in the Leafs main training camp, all vying for 23 positions on the 2015/16 team.
While head coach David McLellan said it’s typical for exhibition games start off choppy, the play in the first period got better as the game progressed and felt the for-checking was good.
McLellan said during exhibition games no player is set to a specific position and there are no set lines to allow the younger players a chance to showcase their skills. Assistant coach Greg Andrusak coached the team from the bench while McLellan focused on observing the athletes play.
Assistant coach Greg Andrusak. Tamara Hynd photo
With a 2-0 lead the Leafs carried the play for a good portion of the second, despite slipping back late in the period. In the third, Beaver Valley fought back scoring two goals. However the Leafs scored their third and final goal of the game with less than six minutes left and held their lead for the win.
“The third was kind of a tie between the two teams overall so I was happy,” said McLellan. “Lots of players who I thought should play well, did play well. I don’t even think we had anyone play that poorly so it was a pretty good night for our guys.”
As for the evening standouts McLellan said there were a few: Eamonn Miller, Tanner Costa, and Kyle Chernenkoff. And there were more.
“Both goal tenders Nathan Spark and Joe Barton had really good games as well,” he said, adding returning veteran Austin Lindsay had a very good game. “It was good to see him step up and help, there’s a pretty young roster there,” said McLellan.
Nelson Leafs head coach David McLellan. Tamara Hynd photo
Brendan Smith, another Leafs veteran, also had a good game.
The Leafs prospects will continue with their training camp Friday. McLellan figures he’ll have a better idea by Saturday what the final roster will look like for the upcoming regular season.
The second of four exhibition games will be hosted by the Beaver Valley Nitehawks in Fruitvale this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The regular season begins on Sept.11 in Nelson against the Kelowna Chiefs. For a complete schedule visit www.nelsonleafs.ca.