Andrew Walton arrived to Nelson Junior Leafs camp this summer with a reputation as a big game goaltender. Friday night at the Nelson and District Community Complex the 20-year-old KIJHL veteran showed exactly why.
Playing against the team that gave him his start in Junior B, Walton stopped 32 of 34 shots thrown his way by the Castlegar Rebels and was key in the Leafs’ huge 5-2 win. The win moved the Leafs within one point of the Rebels who hold down second place in the Neil Murdoch Division.
“Any division game is important, it was easy to get up for,” a humble Walton said after the game.
The Leafs jumped out to an early lead when Nik Newman scored 43 seconds into the game. Though the Rebels controlled much of the first period, it was the Leafs who went up 2-0 with six minutes left in the opening period when J.J. Beitel’s point shot from the point on the powerplay beat Jordan Gluck who was being screened by pesky Brett Norman.
The Leafs ran into penalty trouble late in the period and it caught up them with just over two minutes left. Rebels forward Tyler Robinson came out of the Leafs corner and fired a shot towards the net that was tipped nicely by Anthony Delong. Walton had no chance on the play.
With the Leafs facing a two-man disadvantage to start the second period, Quinn Klimchuk tied the score 30 seconds into the frame.
Seven minutes into the middle stanza, Castlegar was outshooting Nelson 18-5, but it was the Leafs who took the lead when Linden Horswill pounced on a rebound with three seconds left in a Leafs powerplay.
With a steady parade to penalty box for both teams, it was Nelson who again took advantage with just over six minutes left in the period. Newman worked his way out of the corner and got off a nice shot on Gluck. The huge rebound came out to Colton Schell who was standing near the faceoff dot and made no mistake to make the score 4-2.
The period ended with the Rebels up on the shot count 21-13, but in a deep hole to start the third.
The final period was dominated by the Rebels. It took five minutes for the Leafs to register a shot on the Rebels goal, but despite the heavy pressure put on by Castlegar it was Nelson who managed to score when Norman fed a perfect pass into the slot that Newman converted.
Though the tenacious Rebels controlled the play for most of the games, it was the Leafs who were celebrating once the final buzzer sounded.
“Things were going my way,” Walton said of his play that earned him first star honours. “Sometimes it’s easier to stay in the game when you are getting more shots like that.”
The Leafs next game is Monday night when they travel to Kimberley to take on the Dynamiters.