Seven-game winning streaks are becoming a little dull for the Nelson Leafs.
They started off the season winning seven in a row — OK, the seventh win was later defaulted, but let’s not get stuck in statistical semantics — followed by another seven-game tear in October.
Then on Saturday, a win against the Grand Forks Border Bruins gave them their latest Lucky No. 7.
Reid Wilson thinks they can do better. “Seven games. Not bad,” he said. “We can go longer. We can double it.”
Seven was the magic number Saturday as the Leafs survived a wild 7-5 result. Shawn Campbell had a hat trick, Wilson scored twice, and Keenan Crossman and Emery Neilson added singles for the Leafs (26-9-1). Goaltender Hunter Young meanwhile made 21 saves.
Nathan Cohen-Wallis and Rilee Poffenroth each scored twice, Yoan Rodrigue had a one goal and Ross King stopped 32 shots for the Border Bruins (15-19-3).
One night after a 2-1 overtime win against the defending KIJHL champion Kimberley Dynamiters, Nelson struggled to put down a determined Border Bruins squad.
“Let’s give Grand Forks credit,” said Leafs head coach Mario DiBella. “They had a hard-working, hard-skating team today. Certainly I think we had a bit of a hangover from beating Kimberley, but I give the boys full credit for bouncing back and being down a goal going into the third period and coming out strong and scoring.”
Nelson took the early lead seven minutes into regulation. Alex Erichuk took a shot on King that slipped under his pads and remained loose. Crossman was then left alone in front of the net to tap the puck over the line.
But Grand Forks was persistent throughout the period and was rewarded with a goal with just over two minutes left in the first. Young was just barely out of position when Cohen-Wallis circled the net and found a ray of daylight next to the post for the tying goal.
Cohen-Wallis gave the visitors the lead five minutes after the break. He took advantage of a tipped pass that Young had no chance on.
The Leafs clawed back on the power play at 8:52. Several players missed a bouncing puck in front of King until Neilson got his stick on it for the tying goal.
But it was the Border Bruins again at 5:46. Leafs defenceman Nicholas Onofrychuk was serving a tripping penalty when Poffenroth beat Young top corner.
A heads-up play by Cole Wyatt kept Nelson in the game. Wyatt swiped the puck deep in the attacking zone and found Campbell with the pass to once again tie the game at three.
Bad communication between Young, defencemen Onofrychuk and new addition Andrew Gates led to yet one more Border Bruins goal.
The puck slid back to the Leafs zone during a Border Bruins power play, but the trio of Leafs didn’t know who was collecting it. Young made the ill-advised pass behind the net away from the defencemen right to a trailing Poffenroth, who had an empty net to score in and laughed as he skated past the bench with just 6.9 seconds left.
But the Leafs needed just 49 seconds into the third to tie the game. Wilson took a cross-ice pass, sped up the wing and snapped a shot that beat King.
“If we don’t score right away I think it takes us a while to get another one,” said Wilson. “I think it was good to get one off the hop and set the tone for the third period.”
DiBella also thought the goal was pivotal and came about because of pre-game preparation.
“We talked about speed, we talked about the opportunity to play a Grand Forks team that is used to playing on smaller ice and we might be able to use our speed to capitalize offensive space. Reid did that and scored a beautiful goal. He’s a dynamic player.”
It was Wilson once again soon after. Onofrychuk put a puck on the net that Wilson tipped to give Nelson its first lead of the game.
That lead turned out to be short lived. Nelson’s David Sanchez was in the penalty box when Rodrigue’s point shot found its way through a crowd to beat Young, tying the game at five.
Campbell gave the Leafs the advantage with just 3:38 left in the game. Jack Karran was behind King’s net when he found a waiting Campbell in the slot. Campbell’s one-timer had nothing but net in front of it for the 6-5 lead.
Grand Forks pulled King with over one minute left, but with 33 seconds remaining Campbell had a clear path to the empty net and finished off the win for the Leafs.
Leaflets: Nelson played without D Kalem Hanlon (upper body) and F Logan Wullum (upper). F Scott Lancaster will miss the remainder of the season with an upper-body injury. … Nelson’s next game is Jan. 18 at Grand Forks. The Leafs don’t return home until Jan. 27 matinee against the Golden Rockets.