Matti Jmaeff is back in the Nelson Junior Leafs line-up.

Nelson Leafs look to make statement in tight Murdoch Division

In a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season, there are a great many variables and unknowns.

In a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season, there are a great many variables and unknowns. But one thing is always certain: the top three teams in the Neil Murdoch Division are going to be amongst the best in the league and are going to be slugging it out for division bragging rights all season long.

The Beaver Valley Nitehawks, Castlegar Rebels and Nelson Leafs are perennial KIJHL powerhouses who have taken turns over the last couple decades as league champions. The Spokane Braves might be lacking banners in their arena, but the division’s American cousins are always strongly in the mix.

Because of the might of the Neil Murdoch, divisional match-ups become terribly important no matter what point the season is at. The Leafs will face an early season test when they tangle with the Rebels in a key home-and-home weekend.

“This is a big weekend,” said Leafs coach Frank Maida after watching his team take four of a possible six points in a three-game homestand this past weekend.

“We need to really focus on our division and be up for the challenge in these games. Winning games against teams in your division can separate you either way.”

Though Friday night’s game at the Nelson District Community Complex will only be the Leafs’ tenth of season, a pair of wins will set an important tone for the rest of the season. With a 5-3-1-0 record, the Leafs currently sit in the third place in the division, three points behind the Nitehawks and two points shy of the Rebels. Two wins would catapult them ahead of their Highway 3A rivals.

If the Leafs are to come away with four points they will need to be more consistent as a team. Though it’s early in the season, a top line has emerged with captain Colton Schell clicking with rookie Colton McCarthy and power winger Jacob Boyczuk. Though the line has produced most of the points so far, Maida feels his team has other lines who have been steeping up.

“We are getting an equal amount of scoring from all lines,” said Maida. “We are very deep both upfront and defensively. We are setting lines and have some guys who are starting feel comfortable with each other and it is paying off in games.”

One of the recent additions that should prove to bolster the attack is Matti Jmaeff. The Creston native arrived back in Nelson last week after being released by the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Last season Jmaeff scored 14 goals and added 25 assists in his first season with the Leafs.

“Matti will be a big part of our team,” said Maida. “He brings a lot of size and offence to our team, he is a big addition.”

The Leafs are also enjoying some scoring from its defence. In Sunday’s 7-0 win over the Chase Heat, KIJHL rookie Seth Schmidt scored two goals and added a pair of assists. The Creston native played with the Midget AAA Ice last season and the 17-year-old is expected to continue to play a big role on the blueline.

“Seth has been really coming along really well,” Maida said. “He is getting to understand our systems and the junior game a lot better. Now he is being rewarded and working really well with Kevin Bow in that pairing.”

The puck drops at the NDCC at 7 p.m. The Castlegar side of the home-and-home will be played on Saturday night.

 

Just Posted

Here we go again: Mamma Mia! set to open at the Capitol Theatre

The ABBA-inspired musical runs Thursday to Sunday

Nelson holds the line on property taxes

No increase this year thanks to deal with RDCK on park funding

25 years of Nite Trek for West Kootenay Scouts, Guides

Annual adventure hike is hosted by the 107th Baden Powell Guild

Company granted leave to appeal Lemon Creek charges

Executive Flight Centre won a decision in the BC Court of Appeal

Police: cougar still wandering Nelson

The cougar was seen in Lakeside Park

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Most British Columbians agree the ‘big one’ is coming, but only 50% are prepared

Only 46 per cent of British Columbians have prepared an emergency kit with supplies they might need

B.C. man to pay Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party $20k over lawsuit

Federal judge shut down Satinder Dhillon’s ‘nonsensical’ motion to bar use of PPC name in byelection

Sitting and sleeping on downtown sidewalks could net $100 fine in Penticton

The measure, which still requires final approval, would be enforced between May and Sept. 30

Survey finds 15% of Canadian cannabis users with a valid licence drive within two hours of using

Survey also finds middle-aged men are upping their usage following legalization

B.C. man killed in logging accident ‘would have done anything for anyone’

Wife remembers 43-year old Petr Koncek, father of two children

Ottawa spending $24.5M to research on health benefits, risks of pot use

$390,000 will fund two cannabis public awareness

Most Read