The Nelson Junior Leafs sent a message Friday night: the Neil Murdoch Division semi finals are going to be a battle.
With only 10 games remaining in the KIJHL regular season, the odds of the third place Leafs and the second place Castlegar Rebels meeting in the first round of the playoffs are pretty solid.
Friday night at the Nelson and District Community Complex the Leafs thumped the Rebels 6-2 before one of the biggest home crowds of the season.
“A victory like this could turn our whole season around,” said Leafs veteran Colton Schell after the game. “We just played really well as a team.”
The Leafs came out hopping in the first period and their hard work paid off midway through the opening frame. Max Mois gave the home side the lead just over nine minutes into the game and 15 seconds later Colton Malmsten put the Leafs up 2-0.
Thirty second into the second period, Leafs defenceman Jonathan Petrash took a roughing penalty and the Rebels capitalized. After more than a minute of sustained pressure Anthony Delong pushed a rebound past Leafs’ starter Andrew Walton to cut the lead to 2-1.
That only seemed to inspire the Leafs.
Brett Norman responded a minute later and at the midway point of the second frame, Mois scored the goal of the night when he took a Norman pass on a two-on-one, cut to the net and threw a backhand shelf. With just over two minutes left in the period Schell made the score 5-1.
The third period was a rough and tumble affair with the teams trading goals — Patrick Martens for Nelson and Scott Morisseau for the Rebels — to make the final 6-2.
The two teams meet again Saturday night in Castlegar.