If this was middle November, Nelson Junior Leafs head coach Frank Maida might not be able to muster any sunshine after a one-point weekend. But it’s mid-September and the building blocks are just being put in place.
“I’m disappointed that we got one point, but I’m not disappointed in our effort,” Maida told theStar on Monday.
“Overall our play for the first two games of the year was decent. Our effort was great, in both games we didn’t stop working. The outcome of both games was not in our favour, but I was pleased with the effort.”
The Leafs opened the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season on Friday night at home with an old fashioned Neil Murdoch Division shootout against the Castlegar Rebels.
The Rebels struck early with a goal by Peter Mingus just over 20 seconds into the game. By the end of the first period, however, the Leafs responded with a pair goals, first by Aaron Dunlap and then Nelson Minor Hockey grad Matt MacDonald.
The Leafs took a two-goal lead early in the second frame when Carson Willians scored on the powerplay. The Rebels shaved the lead midway through the period when Braydon Horcoff beat Leafs starter Patrick Defoe.
Leafs rookie Colton McCarthy restored the cushion less than two minutes later, but the game went into the second intermission with Nelson holding onto a one-goal advantage thanks to a Bryan Lubin goal late in the period.
The Rebels then notched two goals in less than two minutes late in the third period to take a 5-4 lead.
With Defoe on the bench for the extra attacker, McCarthy scored his second goal of the game to send the game into overtime.
Two overtime periods solved nothing and the rare KIJHL tie was the outcome.
Maida said one of the bright spots in the opener was 16-year-old rookie McCarthy.
“Colton had a great weekend,” Maida said of the Salmon Arm native. “He is going to be a player to watch for fans. He already has interest from the BC Hockey League and the Western Hockey League.”
Friday night’s offensive explosion was followed up by a goaltender duel in the rematch Saturday night in Castlegar.
Leafs rookie starter Cody Boeckman and Rebels veteran ‘tender Jordan Gluck stole the show with each thwarting shot after shot.
In the end it was a two-on-one midway through the third period that Rebels forward Quinn Klimchuk converted that was the difference in the home side’s 1-0 win.
“They got a break and they capitalized,” said Maida. “Unfortunately for us we couldn’t get the equalizer.”
Gluck was awarded the game’s first star honour and Boeckman was the second star.
“Cody had a great game and made some key saves at key times,” Maida said of Boeckman, who was the goaltender of the year last season in the Alberta Junior B league where he played with Airdrie. “He looked very settled and comfortable back there.”
The Leafs travel to Grand Forks on Thursday for a match with the Border Bruins. Last season’s division doormat has already equalled last year’s win total (1) with an overtime win last weekend against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
“They will have a good year,” said Maida. “They have a good coach and a good goaltender. I think it’s great because having to be sharp every night helps your team.”
The Leafs travel to Creston on Saturday night for a game against the Thunder Cats. The team’s next home game is next Saturday when they host the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.