The eight regular season games between the Leafs and the Rebels have been physical affairs and there is no reason to believe the playoffs will be any different.

Nelson Leafs ready to battle Rebels

It’s as even a first round playoff series as you can get and one that promises plenty of excitement.

It’s as even a first round playoff series as you can get and one that promises plenty of excitement. Two bitter rivals, deadlocked during regular season, will settle the score over the next week.

Game one of the Neil Murdoch Division semi-final opens tonight in Castlegar with the Nelson Junior Leafs and Castlegar Rebels looking to start a march towards a KIJHL championship on the right bladed foot.

“It’s going to be a very good series,” says Leafs’ head coach Frank Maida. “Both teams get excited to play each other.”

The eight regular season games solved nothing in the Highway 3A rivalry. In a back-and-forth manner, the two teams came out with four wins each. Though the Rebels finished 13 points ahead of the Leafs in the regular season standings, that will mean nothing when the puck drops at the Castlegar Community Complex in what could very likely be a series that goes the seven game distance.

“I would say we are a bit of an underdog on paper, but through playing them we are all square. So it’s anyone’s series to win,” says Leafs’ leading goal scorer Patrick Martens.

“It’s going to be a really fun series… it will be war for sure.”

Both teams boast a potent offensive attack with a mix of proven veterans like Castlegar’s Anthony Delong and flashy newcomers like Nelson’s Nik Newman.

“Castlegar is a similar team to us,” says Maida. “They move their feet and they move the puck well. They have a lot of experience up front that can do a lot of damage so we have to be ready and pay a lot of attention to those guys.

“We are a pretty deep, four strong line team. It will be to our advantage that we can throw out any line at any time and create some opportunities. Our defence is very good with experienced guys like Jonathan Petrash and Tyler Parfeniuk, and some young guys that are eager. We do have the nucleus and we are gelling at the right time of the season… we are all excited and ready to go.”

As is the case in any successful playoff run, the last line of defence will play a major role ultimate success. In that category, the Leafs have a proven money goaltender in Andrew Walton who helped take the Fernie Ghostrider to final of the Cyclone Taylor Cup last spring.

“It will be a tough series and it could come down to goaltending. If that’s the case then I feel pretty good about our goaltending presently,” says Maida, who was quick to give plenty of credit for the team’s regular success to back-up rookie puck stopper Patrick Defoe.

“At this point Andrew will start the playoffs and we will see how it goes from there,” adds Maida. “If he needs a rest or a break then Patrick will be ready for it.”

Martens agrees that the guys wearing the biggest pads will be instrumental, but he’s not throwing the team’s fate on one player.

“All the pressure shouldn’t be on the goaltenders,” says Martens. “Obviously they have a big stake in it, but we have shown we can score a lot of goals.”

Maida says one of the key intangibles will be special teams.

“Discipline will be a very important part,” says the Leafs’ coach. “They have a very good powerplay and our powerplay has been clicking of late. The team that stays out of the box will have the advantage and we are going to focus on that.”

So who is going to come out on top? It’s nearly impossible to call at this point, but Maida is preparing his crew for a long and exhausting series.

“Once you hit the playoffs there is no time,” says Maida who has enjoyed a few marches to the KIJHL finals while an assistant under Simon Wheeldon a couple years back. “You play almost every day and you have to be ready. We will play one period at a time and that is how we are entering the series… we are not looking any farther than the first period of the first game.”

The puck drops at the Castlegar Complex at 7:30 p.m. Game two will also be set in Castlegar on Saturday night. Games three and four return to Nelson on Monday and Tuesday night starting at 7 p.m.

 

TALE OF THE TAPE

Regular season records

Castlegar: 37-11-1-3 78 points • second in the Neil Murdoch Division • tied for second in the KIJHL overall standings

Nelson: 30-17-0-5 65 points • third in the Neil Murdoch Division • tied for eighth in the KIJHL overall standings

Castlegar goals for/goals against: 255/133

Nelson goals for/goals against: 259/167

 

Individuals to watch

Castlegar leading point getter: Stuart Walton – 87 points

Castlegar leading goal scorer: Anthony Delong – 39 goals

Castlegar penalty minute leaders: Kody Disher and Erik Alden – 148 minutes

Castlegar goaltenders save percentage: Connor Beauchamp .898 (29 games) and Jordan Gluck .898 (26 games)

Nelson leading point getter: Nik Newman – 68 points

Nelson leading goal scorer: Patrick Martens – 40 goals

Nelson penalty minute leader: Colton Malmsten – 181 minutes

Nelson goaltenders save percentage: Andrew Walton .892 (28 games) and Patrick Defoe .878 (23 games)

 

Head to Head this Season

September 16 Nelson 3 Castlegar 0 in Castlegar

September 17 Castlegar 6 Nelson 3 in Nelson

December 9 Nelson 5 Castlegar 2 in Nelson

December 17 Castlegar 6 Nelson 4 in Castlegar

January 27 Nelson 6 Castlegar 2 in Nelson

January 28 Castlegar 4 Nelson 1 in Castlegar

February 10 Nelson 6 Castlegar 2 in Castlegar

February 11 Castlegar 7 Nelson 3 in Nelson

 

 

Just Posted

Trail company bids to replace Greyhound for Nelson-Kelowna run

Silver City Stage Lines has applied to the Passenger Transportation Board

Observant neighbour averts fire disaster

Blueberry resident spots neighbour’s truck on fire.

COLUMN: Carrot thief, forest fires, and a horse-boat collision

Greg Scott brings us news from the archives of the Nelson Daily News fifty years ago

Kootenay fires grow — more evacuation alerts

Syringa fire prompts evacuation alerts plus HWY 3 closure and U.S. fire crosses into B.C.

VIDEO: Auto repair shop celebrates Nelson mural festival

A painting by Barry Overn at Downtown Automotive turned heads at the festival opening.

B.C. team stays alive in Little League World Series after another nail-biter

Surrey-based squad scored a 6-4 win over Mexico reps in Williamsport on Monday

Kids, seniors at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says children’s lungs don’t fully develop until about age 10

B.C. mother charged in 7-year-old daughter’s death appears in court

The 36-year-old mother, of Langley’s Aaliyah Rosa, has been charged with second-degree murder

VIDEO: Teen soccer phenomenon Alphonso Davies to visit B.C. kids camp

The 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecap player is one of the youngest players in MLS history

New plan to lift more than two million people past the poverty line

Anti-poverty strategy will aim for 50 per cent cut in low-income rates: source

Liberals scrap lottery system for reuniting immigrants with their parents

Lottery for parent sponsorship to be replaced, more applications to be accepted

Bear kills off-leash dog in B.C. park

There have been nearly 200 pet or livestock and bear encounters so far this year

Trudeau says he won’t apologize to heckler, pledges to call out ‘hate speech’

Prime Minister had accused woman of racism as she shouted about illegal immigration at Quebec rally

Most Read