The Nelson Junior Leafs open the 2013-14 regular season this weekend

Nelson’s quest for a KIJHL title begins

If the pre-season is any indication, the Nelson Junior Leafs have put together a team ready to compete

If the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League pre-season is any indication, the Nelson Junior Leafs have put together a team ready to compete for a championship.

Earlier this week, the Leafs closed out the preseason with a pair of decisive wins — 8-0 and 7-4 — against defending league champion Castlegar. The two teams will match up again tonight as the 2013-14 KIJHL regular season gets rolling.

“We’re not sure how to react to that,” Leafs head coach Frank Maida said about his team’s perfect 5-0 preseason record. “We played well and we are feeling good right now as a group that’s coming together. We’re really looking forward to starting the season this weekend.”

The Leafs home opener is set for Saturday night against Creston at the Nelson and District Community Complex.

“We’ve had a great, competitive camp,” said Maida. “We couldn’t have really asked for a better camp and are really happy with the talent we had for the last two weeks.”

The Leafs will host the Cyclone Taylor Cup in the spring and therefore have an automatic berth into the provincial championship. But as the local club embarks on the regular season, Maida said they are not looking for the easy ride and plan to earn the KIJHL title on their own merit.

“I believe we have the team here to win a championship,” he said.

The Leafs plan on getting to the top using the basics.

“We’re going to be extremely fast, our team is built around speed,” said Maida. “We will be quick on all loose pucks and quick on the backcheck. You will see really good skating and puck movement from this team.”

The Leafs added a pair of key veterans to the offensive attack in the off-season in a trade with Castlegar. Jamie Vlanich and Travis Wellman both have the potential to be explosive offensive weapons. In the preseason, Calgarian Wellman showed flashes of what is to come.

“He is a good example of how our team is going to be built this year with that kind of speed,” Maida said.

Returning forwards include Aaron Dunlap, Matt MacDonald, Matthew Naka, Bryce Nielsen and Carson Willans. They will be joined upfront by Blair Andrews, Tyler Garcia, Austin Lindsay, Nolan Percival, Brandon Sookro and Alec Wilkinson.

Though the Leafs scored in bunches in the pre-season, Maida said his focus is not on scoring statistics.

“Our first priority is our own zone, that is where it all starts,” he said. “We will then use our speed to create offensive chances.”

The defensive corps looks solid with returning blueliners Cole Arcuri, JJ Beitel and Robson Cramer being joined by Darnel St. Pierre, Austin Seaman and Austin Tambellini.

Maida calls the crew a mobile unit that will move the puck fast and provide offense.

In goal, Nelson Minor Hockey product Adam Maida earned a spot and will share puckstopping duties with KIJHL veteran Tyler Moffatt.

In total there are seven Nelson-raised players currently on the roster — Arcuri, MacDonald, Percival, Sookro, Willans, Maida and Tambellini — and the coach is expecting them all to make an impact.

“We’re excited to have the locals in the line-up and it’s going to be a good year for the Nelson boys,” said Maida.

It’s a long season and Maida said the first few weeks will be important in laying the foundations for a team he hopes will turn into a force.

“Our first month will be focused on learning and getting our systems down,” said Maida. “We need everybody to understand our systems in all three zones and that will be the focus.”

The puck drops in the Saturday home opener at 7 p.m.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Three face charges in Nelson fentanyl busts

Two men and a woman were arrested in two separate incidents

Nelson cyclist run over by truck

Driver ticketed for failing to yield right of way on left turn

Hwy 1 flooding causes massive delays on certain Arrow Lakes ferry routes

Motorists have been waiting around three hours to get on ferries

RDCK: spring flooding financial relief available

The provincial funds are for those affected by flooding in May and early June

Pamela Allain, Laura Gellatly join the Nelson Star

Allain oversees Black Press’s West Kootenay papers, while Gellatly is the Star’s new publisher

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Most Read