Never before has a player been so unenthusiastic about a game-saving goal as Jack Karran was Saturday night.
Karran jammed his stick on the puck during a scramble in front of the opposing goalie to tie the game with just 11.8 seconds left.
But two periods of overtime were inconclusive and the Nelson Leafs had to settle with one point they felt should have been two in a 3-3 tie with the Columbia Valley Rockies.
“It shouldn’t have have even gone to overtime,” said Karran. “We gotta get better out of the gate next time.”
Jackson Zimmermann also scored twice for the Leafs, while Yeager stopped 18 shots.
Tyler Bordt, Joshua Antunes and Kale Hawryluk scored for the Rockies, with Ben Kelsch making 50 saves.
The first overtime came and went. The ice opened up with 3-on-3 in the second OT, and that nearly led to a Karran winner. He was the recipient of a two-on-none play but there was one pass too many and Karran’s chip bounced off the post before the final buzzer sounded.
“Their goalie played pretty good but we need to get better shots than on the chest,” said Karran. “We had enough power plays, we should have been able to capitalize.”
The inability to find the back of the net was a tragedy considering all the Leafs did was score Friday.
Ryan Cooper’s five-point night paced Nelson to a 12-3 romp past the Fernie Ghostriders. Cooper scored twice and added three assists for the Leafs, who had only scored twice in two previous regular season games.
Ethan Beattie and Sawyer Hunt also scored twice, while Ryan Piva, Justin Podgorenko, Zach Morey, David Sanchez, Karran and Zimmermann each had singles. Ethan Land meanwhile had three assists, while Josh Williams stopped 28 shots in net.
It was the first time the Leafs had scored in the double digits since a 10-3 victory over Grand Forks on Nov. 20, 2013.
But the goals disappeared Saturday as the Leafs were stymied again and again despite overwhelming the Rockies’ defence.
It was Columbia Valley that struck first by capitalizing on the Leafs inability to clear the crease. Bordt was credited with a goal no one in the stands could see for the crowd in front of a sprawled out Yeager just a minute and a half into the game.
Two minutes later the Rockies’ advantage was two. Antunes benefited from a beautiful pass by Tyler Nypower on a fast break, tipping the delivery over Yeager’s shoulder.
The quick two-goal deficit was hard to shake.
“I feel like we got what we deserved,” said Leafs head coach Mario DiBella. “We were lucky to come away with the tie. We can’t just expect to come to the rink and see what the opposing team brings before we decide to start playing.”
Nelson got back into the game thanks to a power play. The Leafs cycled the puck a couple times before Dash Thompson saw an opening and zipped in a shot that Zimmermann tipped past Kelsch at 6:36.
Ryan Cooper very nearly tied the game with 16 seconds left before the intermission but his shot rang off the period.
The next 20 minutes were an exercise in frustration.
Nelson dominated possession, outshooting Columbia Valley 18-5. But every shot on Kelsch seemed to deflect up into the netting, with several power plays prolonged by stop after stop. It wasn’t pretty, and no one was disappointed when the period ended.
“We clustered up a lot,” said Zimmermann. “We should have moved a little bit more. Sometimes the goalie gets lucky on some of those shots, and how many crossbars did we hit? A lot of crossbars, a lot of posts. Sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”
It got worse for Nelson just over a minute into the third. Hawryluk was alone on the doorstep for a wide-open shot over a sprawling Yeager to give the Rockies a 3-1 lead.
Kelsch kept the lead intact with a beauty save. Hunt fed Podgorenko on a 2-on-1 opportunity, only to be denied by Kelsch’s post-to-post save.
A scary moment occurred a minute later that left Rockies defenceman Kyler Schmigelsky face down on the ice. He collided with Nelson’s Michael LeNoury and was laid out in a hit no one appeared to think was dirty.
The Leafs were momentarily sent to their locker-room while three training staff members attended to Schmigelsky. He ended up walking off the ice on his own power but left a splash of blood where he fell.
When play resumed, Cooper’s eyes turned to the sky for the second time of the game. The Leafs forward snapped a shot at Kelsch’s top corner that missed by a hair.
DiBella, Karran and Zimmermann were each critical of the team’s shots after the game. Quantity, it turns out, doesn’t equal quality.
“I’m pleased that we’re getting opportunities but we can’t give goaltenders the look,” said DiBella. “We need to shoot off the pass and bury our opportunities. We had probably four chances to win that game and just didn’t bear down and put the puck to the back of the net.”
Nelson found some hope at 7:08 of the period. Beattie’s solo effort resulted in a big rebound that Zimmermann chipped past Kelsch, cutting the deficit to one before Karran’s last-second goal forced OT.
Leaflets: Nelson next goes on the road for its first trip of the season. The Leafs play Spokane, Grand Forks and Creston Valley before returning home Sept. 30 against the Thunder Cats.