Kaleb Comishin just thought he’d put the puck on the net and see what would happen.
But instead of winding up for a slapshot from the point, the Nelson Leafs defenceman slid the puck over the ice like a skip would a curling rock. It wasn’t meant to go in on its own — so of course that’s exactly what it did.
“I was pretty shocked,” said Comishin. “I thought for sure it got tipped in, then all the boys came out rushing to me at the point.”
Goals like Comishin’s came easy for the Leafs in a 5-1 win over the Castlegar Rebels on Friday. Trail Thompson, Tyler Nypower and Emery Neilson each scored singles for Nelson, while Ryan Piva scored a goal and added three assists that put him third overall in the KIJHL with 17 points.
C.J. Wedenig meanwhile made 23 saves in his first start of the season for Nelson, which extended its perfect record through the first seven games of the campaign.
The new team has worked out well for Comishin. The defenceman is a Nelson native who played minor hockey in the city and was briefly an affiliate player for the Leafs before spending the last two seasons with the Osoyoos Coyotes.
The Coyotes won division titles and reached conference finals both seasons Comishin played for them, but in the off-season he decided he wanted to take a risk and return to his hometown.
“I wish I came back last year knowing how nice it is here,” he said. “I missed it.”
Jesse Belley had the lone goal for the struggling Rebels (1-4-0), with Davyn LaRocke stopping 30 shots.
Nelson didn’t wait long to get on the board. The Leafs were already dominating possession when they were gifted a power play, which led to a point-shot goal from Thompson for the 1-0 lead less than four minutes into regulation.
Neilson nearly made it 2-0. He was face to face with LaRocke and deked one time too many to fool the Rebels goaltender.
That miss proved critical moments later. A Castlegar defenceman wired a shot at Wedenig, who deflected the puck off his glove to Belley for the quick rebound and suddenly it was a tie game.
Belley thought he scored another late in the period after forcing a turnover in front of Wedenig. But the goal was waved off and Belley was instead sent to the penalty box for hooking.
The Leafs took advantage on the ensuing power play. Piva was wide open to collect a Thompson shot off the boards and made no mistake to give Nelson a 2-1 lead heading into intermission.
Nelson kept up the pressure after the break but didn’t strike until the middle frame was nearly over. Nypower, playing his first game in a Leafs jersey, was in the slot to whip a backhand past LaRocke to give Nelson a two-goal lead.
The goal got Leafs head coach Mario DiBella excited for what he expects to see more of from Nypower.
“I think that we all saw he’s got awfully good hands,” said DiBella. “He scored a beautiful backhand goal, which is something you don’t see that often in today’s game, and set up a goal as well. I think he’s obviously going to be power. He’s going to be a top-six forward on this team and he certainly showed us why we traded for him. He paid dividends in his first game.”
Nypower is another player coming from a successful team. He was acquired early in the season from the VIJHL’s Nanaimo Buccaneers, who are currently first in their division. But Nypower said there was no anxiety in leaving one good team for another.
“I played Nelson last year and they always had a pretty good group of guys,” he said. “Just knowing they were undefeated, I was definitely excited to get here and see if I could help the team out a little bit.”
Two Leafs went to the box on separate calls, giving the Rebels a 5-on-3 for 42 seconds. But they were denied by a great effort from Piva, who twice swiped the puck and killed off time.
Nelson was back on even strength in the third period when they struck again on what looked like a fluky goal. Comishin appeared to be floating in a pass from the point, but the puck went through a crowd and stunned LaRocke by sliding into the far corner for the 4-1 lead.
Three coincidentals made for a pair of busy penalty boxes as the game took on a more physical tone. That meant the officials were kept busy with what often seemed like a revolving door of penalties.
Neilson put a pin in the Rebels with a goal in the final minute of regulation, sending the Leafs to their seventh straight victory.
Leaflets: Nelson was without F Keenan Crossman (upper body), F Shawn Campbell (lower body), F Josh Stypka (upper body) and F Logan Wullum (two-game suspension). … New Leafs D Cole Jensen, who was acquired from the Kimberley Dynamiters, made his debut Friday. … The Leafs next visit the Columbia Valley Rockies on Saturday. They return home next Friday for a rematch against Castlegar.