On the biggest football afternoon of the year, it seemed fitting that the Nelson Junior Leafs and Spokane Braves produced a game with a result more appropriate for the gridiron.
“It feels like a football and it’s Super Bowl Sunday after all,” said Leafs’ sniper Patrick Martens who notched four goals his team’s 8-7 win at the Nelson and District Community Complex Sunday afternoon. “We made it through. Sunday afternoon games are hard to get up for, but we played a good first two periods. We let it go in the third period, but our third and fourth lines really produced for us in the end and got us the win. We owe them a lot.”
The Braves drew first blood just over three minutes into the game when Dylan Tappe capitalized on a powerplay opportunity beating Leafs’ starter Andrew Walton.
The Leafs roared back with three unanswered markers of their own, starting with a Martens’ powerplay goal with just over four minutes into the first frame. Martens notched his second five minutes later and less than a minute after that linemate Colton Schell made the score 3-1 for the Leafs.
The lead was short lived as 11 seconds after Schell scored, Braves forward Nick Farmer cut into the lead. Then with only 15 seconds left in the period, Nick Redding tied the game at threes.
Early in the second period Leafs’ forward Dallon Stoddart took a tripping penalty and Matt Thurston responded for Spokane to return the advantage to the visitors. Two minutes later Martens completed the hat trick when he converted a pass by linemate Matthew Naka.
The teams once again traded goals late in the frame. Thomas McNevin scored for Spokane and Brett Norman notched a beauty for the Leafs when he took a nice pass from Max Mois and went top shelf over Braves’ starter Mitch Tyson’s glove.
Before the horn went on the second period, Martens one-timed home his fourth of the afternoon on a nice pass from Schell.
“That’s always the way in a high scoring affair, it keeps you on your toes,” Norman told the Star after the game. “You get one and think you are up, then they come back… it’s a little nerve wracking.”
As the buzzer sounded, so did Braves’ coach Mike Bay’s temper. The Spokane coach was tossed from the game after arguing with the officials as the teams filed into the dressing rooms.
Eleven minutes into the final period, Uriah Machuga knotted the score once again when he lifted a shot over Walton’s shoulder in tight. Two minutes after that Sean Collins once again gave Spokane the lead when he converted on a two-on-one.
Though the Leafs top two lines padded their stats over the weekend, it was the third line of James Sorrey, Colton Malmsten and Cameron Dobransky that saved the day.
With just over five minutes left in the game, the puck shot loose from the corner and Malmsten stuffed it home for his 13th goal of the season. Then with just under two minutes left, Sorrey notched the game winner.
“Malmsten got the pass and kind of fumbled it so I took it around the net and put it into the cluster… it bounced in. Kind of lucky, but nice,” a smiling Sorrey said after the game.
“We were out there grinding there for most of the game and concentrating more on defence. Getting those two goals is nice. We are out there in a shutdown role, but it was a nice reward for working hard.”
Ten seconds after the go-ahead goal, Leafs’ blueliner Eric Spring rocked a Spokane player with a thundering hit that set off a scrum between the two teams. For his efforts, Spring received a penalty and the Leafs were forced to end the game killing a penalty. The tandem of Stoddart and Carson Willians was joined by some great shot blocking from J.J. Beitel to help preserve the win.
The Leafs next game is Friday when they travel to Castlegar for the first end of a home-and-home. The two teams play at the NDCC on Saturday night.