The Nelson Junior Leafs jumped out to a 4-1 lead in Revelstoke on Saturday night against the Grizzlies, but couldn’t hang on and lost in overtime.
In a must-win situation if the Leafs want to finish first in the Neil Murdoch Division, the Leafs loss now enables the Castlegar Rebels to clinch the title if they can beat Grand Forks this afternoon.
The Grizzlies Kent Hendrickson opened the scoring Saturday night when he beat Nelson starter Marcus Beesley eight minutes into the game to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
The Leafs then went on a three-goal tear in the second half of the opening period. First Connor Gross scored to tie the score, then Dustin Reimer and Linden Horswill gave the Leafs a 3-1 heading into the dressing room.
With just under five minutes left in the second period, captain Colton Schell scored to give Nelson a 4-1 lead.
Then the roof caved in on the Leafs.
Dylan Ossman scored on the powerplay with just under two minutes left in the middle stanza to cut the lead in half.
Thirty seconds into the third period, Ossman again beat Beesley to cut the margin to one.
The teams exchanged chances for the remainder of the third period, but with 1:25 left on the clock, Revelstoke’s Tyler Reay tied the score and sent the game into overtime.
The Leafs outshot the Grizzlies in the overtime period 7-3, but it was Brayden Beckley who scored the winner with 20 seconds left in the game.
It was the Leafs fifth loss in a row.
The Leafs now trail Castlegar by four points. Though the Leafs and the Rebels will square off in the final two games of the season this coming weekend, if Castlegar beats Grand Forks this afternoon they will clinch the division and an opening round playoff series against the struggling Spokane Braves. The Leafs would face the much tougher Beaver Valley Nitehawks in the first round that would start next week.