The Nelson Junior Leafs have put together a pair of wins, but this weekend their mettle will be truly tested against perennial powerhouse Beaver Valley.
Last year’s Kootenay International Junior Hockey League champions have already jumped out to a solid start with a 2-0-1-1 record and should once again be the team all other Neil Murdoch Division teams are gunning for if they hope to challenge for a title.
The Leafs — 2-1-1-0 so far this season — will hope to do so in a weekend home-and-home with solid defence.
“I’m pleased that we have only allowed three goals in the last three games,” said Leafs head coach Frank Maida.
“We have been really focusing on our zone, we want to eliminate chances and opportunities and keep the puck out of our net. If we do that, I’m confident at the other end with our speed and skill, it will work out.”
Two keys to the Leafs’ recent goals-against success has been the play of goaltenders Cody Boeckman and Brett Soles. Both keepers are new to the Leafs line-up this season and played well enough in pre-season to displace last year’s back-up, Patrick DeFoe, who was released last week.
Boeckman came from the Alberta Junior B League where he played in Airdrie and was the goaltender of the year in 2011-12. Soles flashed the leather for the Kootenay Ice Midget AAA team.
With a little bit more experience, it will be Boeckman who will be counted as the number one, but Maida said it’s not quite that simple.
“As we have done in the past we are going to have a one and a one-A,” said Maida. “It will be split pretty close, probably 55/45 and with Cody being the more experienced goaltender, [he] will assume the one position. Brett can learn from Cody in the one-A position.”
Both goaltenders saw action last week with Soles registering the win against Grand Forks and Boeckman earning the victory against Creston.
Another key this weekend will be the play of what has become the Leafs’ top line of Colton Schell, Colton McCarthy and Jacob Boyczuk. The line has done most of the team’s scoring thus far and will be relied upon again.
“Colton [McCarthy] is enjoying a real good start,” Maida said of the 16-year-old rookie who has scored five goals so far. “He is working hard and his whole line is contributing to his success. They have some chemistry. Jacob Boyczuk is a big part of it. He is a big body and creates a lot of room for both Coltons.”
The teams open the home-and-home in Fruitvale on Friday and then square off at the Nelson and District Community Complex on Saturday. Puck drops at 7 p.m.
IN THE CREASE: Two familiar faces are expected to be in the Nitehawks line-up this weekend. Nelson Minor Hockey grad Colton Dawson has cracked the squad and former Leafs defenceman Walker Sidoni was traded closer to home this past summer. Sidoni manned the blueline for the Leafs for two seasons.