The shine on the Nelson Junior Leafs’ Saturday night victory over the Beaver Valley Nitehawks was dimmed with 2:45 remaining in the game after one of the visiting players crashed into the boards and went into convulsions.
With the home side enjoying a 5-2 lead in the late moments of the game, Leafs defenceman Dustin Reimer laid a clean hit on Nitehawks forward Brandon Butlin near the Nelson bench. Butlin fell into the boards awkwardly and hit his head on the boards.
“It was an extremely unfortunate situation,” explained Leafs head coach Frank Maida.
Training staff from both benches jumped onto the ice immediately as the crowd at the Nelson and District Community Complex went silent. BC Ambulance was called and Butlin was eventually taken to hospital.
Both teams decided to call the game at that point.
“It was extremely upsetting for both coaching staffs and both sets of players,” said Maida. “We took it upon ourselves to call the game, it just wasn’t a good situation. Both teams of players were very upset.”
Butlin is reported to be recovering without any permanent damage. He has a serious concussion and will miss at least a month of action.
“It was a scary situation and we are very happy he is alright,” Maida told the Star on Monday morning.
Before the hit sent fans to the parking lot, the Leafs were putting forward an effort that gave locals plenty to cheer about.
The Nitehawks scored the opening goal of the game just over three minutes in when Butlin beat Leafs’ starter Brett Soles.
Three minutes later the Leafs responded when Linden Horswill tied the score at ones. With four minutes left in the opening 20, Horswill scored his second of the period to give his team a 2-1 advantage.
The Leafs increased their lead early in the middle frame when captain Colton Schell beat Nitehawks goalie Zach Perehudoff who was promptly pulled after letting the goal past.
With first year Leaf Aaron Dunlap in the penalty box midway through he second for hooking, the Nitehawks took advantage of the powerplay opportunity when Ryan Edwards scored to make it 3-2.
Before the buzzer sounded on the second, Leafs’ veteran forward James Sorrey restored the two goal cushion on the powerplay.
Less than four minutes into the final period, Leafs’ rookie Colton McCarthy kept his hot streak going when he scored a shorthanded goal to give the Leafs a 5-2 lead.
The game ended after the Butlin check, at which point the Leafs were in control of the game. Maida credits preparation for the win.
“Before a game in the dressing room, we told them they have to be mentally ready for the jobs they have as individuals and as a team,” Maida said of Saturday night’s effort. “Playing our system and understanding what they need to do when they hit the ice.”
Maida’s pride in the solid effort Saturday was not present on Friday night when the Leafs headed to Fruitvale for the opening game of the home-and-home and got hammered 8-2.
“We were not mentally ready to go into that game,” said Maida. “We had a great week of practice and I thought we were going to go in, compete hard and come away with a win. The exact opposite happened.”
The Nitehawks jumped out to an early lead with Arie Postmus scoring on Nelson starter Cody Boeckman just over three minutes into the game. Connor Brown-Maloski made the score 2-0 late in the period, but before the opening stanza ended McCarthy got one back for the Leafs.
The second period was all Nitehawks. They threw 17 shots towards Boeckman and came away with three goals to increase the lead to 5-1.
Though Leafs’ forward Greg Nickel cut the lead to 5-2 early in the final period, three more goals by the Nitehawks turned the game into a romp.
Maida said the Friday loss was disappointing, but the real Leafs team was the one on display Saturday.
“Win or loss, the Saturday team was the Leafs team fans
should expect,” said Maida.
“I look for a solid effort and our compete level. On Saturday we competed the entire 60 minutes in every single battle.”
The Leafs will now prepare for a three-game home weekend which will see them play Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the NDCC.