Leafs forward Cole Wyatt waits for his moment in front of Nelson native Ben Kelsch. Photo: Tyler Harper

Nelson Leafs humble Rockies 9-2

Leafs score 7 unanswered goals en route to win

Mitchell Lavoie say he’s never played on a more injury-riddled team than the Nelson Leafs.

The Leafs, who were missing eight players Saturday, are regularly taking the ice with more than a quarter of their roster watching from the bleachers.

“Where are all our guys? I’ve never played on a team with this much injuries and suspensions all going on at the same time,” said Lavoie.

And yet it didn’t matter that much Saturday. The Leafs clobbered the Columbia Valley Rockies 9-2 at home for their biggest win of the season thanks a determined squad playing

“Being heavily injured, it just gives other guys an opportunity to step up,” said Lavoie. “That just shows how deep our roster is and how good we can play with [16] guys. Imagine what we can do with 20.”

Probably not much better than they did Saturday.

Emery Neilson and Tyler Nypower each scored twice, while Kaleb Comishin, Keenan Crossman, Cole Wyatt, Reid Wilson, and Lavoie had singles for the Leafs (19-7-1), while Hunter Young stopped 19 shots.

The Rockies appeared overwhelmed all night by the Leafs’ role players.

“We’re working on a new forecheck right now and it incorporates a lot of speed so that’s definitely where we’re trying to improve our team,” said Neilson.

The win came one night after a hard-luck loss in Kimberley that earned the Leafs praise from head coach Mario DiBella. He said the Rockies may have mistaken a thin Leafs’ roster for an easy win.

“I thought that we really executed with speed today,” said DiBella. “Our breakout passes particularly in the last 10 minutes of the first period were on point, razor sharp, and I thought our forecheck was excellent.”

Brennan Nelson scored twice for the Rockies (18-6-3). Ben Kelsch started the night and allowed six goals on 28 shots before C.J. Wedenig took over in the second period and gave up three goals on 19 shots.

The Rockies struck first eight minutes into regulation. Brennan Nelson was waiting in the slot when he took a pass from Connor Davison. Young tried to slide back into position but was too late to make the save.

Despite the early deficit, the Leafs dominated offensively and were rewarded for the effort. Comishin was at the blueline when he put what looked like a weak shot on Kelsch, but the puck squeaked through his pads for the surprise goal to tie the game.

Jack Karran created the next goal with a terrific effort. The Leafs captain carried the puck up the side of the rink and slipped a perfect pass across the crease to a rushing Crossman for the tip-in goal.

Nelson added its third goal only a minute later. Wyatt did well to keep the puck in the Rockies zone for Neilson, who picked it up and backhanded in a goal to give the surging Leafs their third unanswered goal of the period.

It was Neilson again only two minutes later. He took a pass from behind the net for his second goal of the game on the embattled Rockies goaltender, sending the Leafs into the first intermission with a 4-1 lead after having outshot the visitors 19-4.

The onslaught continued in the second period.

Nelson was playing shorthanded when a Rockie coughed up the puck at centre ice. Wyatt picked it up, took it in alone on a breakaway and deked the puck through Kelsch’s pads.

Kelsch was on his way to the bench less than two minutes later. Wilson carried the puck in front of net and whipped a shot that gave the Leafs their sixth goal and ended Kelsch’s night.

Wedenig, who was traded by the Leafs to the Rockies last month, took over but was soon victimized by another goal. Neilson was behind the net when he sent a pass to Nypower for a one-timer and the seventh goal of the night.

The Rockies got a much-needed goal with two minutes left in the period. Brennan Nelson scored on a sharp-angle shot that Young appeared to save and even fooled the goal judge. It took a moment before the official ruled it a goal and Columbia Valley made a delayed, if muted, celebration.

But the blowout continued in the third. The Leafs were on a power play when Lavoie deflected a Tyson Soobotin point shot past Wedenig for the 8-2 lead.

The rout increased to seven goals with just under six minutes left in the game. Rockies defenceman Loclyn Kabatoff was serving a double minor for spearing when Nypower batted in a rebound for his second of the night. Nypower finished his goal celebration in the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct.

DiBella said he hopes the Leafs get some reinforcements over the upcoming holiday break.

“For Christmas I wish to get some returning players from last year that continue to be courted and I’m hopeful they show up after Christmas, and we’ll celebrate together for New Years.”

Leaflets: Nelson’s injury ward remains largely the same. G Caiden Kreitz (upper body), F Logan Wullum (upper body), F Brady Miller (upper body), F Scott Lancaster (upper body) and D Kalem Hanlon (upper body), D Alex Erichuk (lower body), while D Michael LeNoury served the first of a three-game suspension incurred Friday in Kimberley. D Nicholas Onofrychuk also sat out. … Nelson next faces the Rebels in Castlegar on Friday. … The Leafs’ home game scheduled for Dec. 28 against the Princeton Posse actually takes place in Kamloops. Nelson doesn’t play another home game until Jan. 4 against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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