It’s a lopsided victory the Nelson Junior Leafs don’t expect when they travel south to Fruitvale, but after a 10-3 drubbing of the Beaver Valley Nitehawks Tuesday night the locals are riding high.
“It’s the biggest win of the season so far,” said Leafs’ head coach Frank Maida. “We have been outshooting teams from day-one and haven’t been rewarded. Last night we continued to outshoot them and finally they were rewarded.”
You would have to search a long way back in the record books to find such a decisive smackdown in the Nitehawks home arena. The perennial Kootenay International Junior Hockey League squad doesn’t lose too many at home and rarely get run out of their own barn.
“I’m not sure when the last time that happened, but it was a great victory,” said Maida. “The boys played well and were focused from the start of the game.”
From the first shift, the Leafs held the edge. Veteran forward James Sorrey started the onslaught 26 seconds into the contest when he beat Nitehawks’ starter Zach Perehudoff. Then the Leafs kept the foot on the gas scoring three more times — Kevin Bow, Sorrey and Jacob Boyczuk — before eight minutes had gone by.
“The key was our preparation. They handed it to us the last time we went into that building because we weren’t ready,” Maida said of the Leafs’ last visit where they lost 8-2 in late-September. “Our focus was our preparation and it started right from the first shift.”
The four goals on nine shots chased Perehudoff from the Beaver Valley net and sent backup Travis Beekhuizen into the fray.
Just over 10 minutes into the opening period, Nitehawks’ forward Brad Gaboury scored on the powerplay when he beat Nelson starter Brett Soles. But five minutes after that Leafs’ captain Colton Schell restored the four-goal lead.
Any between period pep talk in the Nitehawks’ dressing room was for not when the puck dropped on the middle stanza. Damin Devlin increased the lead to five just over a minute in. Former Leafs’ defenceman Walker Sidoni responded with one, but Nelson blueliner Seth Schmidt made the score 7-2 before the end of the second.
The Leafs added three more in the final period — Greg Nickel, Devlin and Aaron Dunlap — to bring stat-night to an end.
The Leafs outshot the Nitehawks 46-22.
“It helps with the boys feeling they can go into Beaver Valley and do it again,” Maida said of what the victory will mean for the rest of the season. “But it’s a one-game-at-a-time situation and right now we are just worried about the next period [against Grand Forks on Thursday] and will continue to grow each period as a team.”
Though it’s safe to assume the Nitehawks will rebound from the loss, Maida said his team can continue to show its might the next time the teams meet on November 2 at the Nelson and District Community Complex.
“We will see them again soon and we are already looking forward to that game,” said Maida. “We will go in with that same kind of gameplan and see if we can continue to dominate in their rink.”
The victory put the Leafs alone atop the Neil Murdoch Division for the first time this season and was the team’s third win in a row. They travel to Grand Forks on Thursday night to take on the Border Bruins.