Credit Montreal Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki with his first KIJHL assist Friday night.
Was Suzuki on the ice? Of course not. But his goal on a penalty shot Thursday inspired Nelson Leafs’ forward Seamus Boyd, who had Suzuki in mind when he was asked to take part in a shootout a little over 24 hours later.
“I saw Suzuki do it last night and I was like, man, I got to do the same thing,” said Boyd.
Boyd’s move, a slick deke that dropped Castlegar Rebels goaltender Ethan Lawczynski to his pads, wasn’t exactly the same as Suzuki’s cheeky flip on Arizona Coyotes netminder Connor Ingram. But the result was the same, and it helped the Leafs’ earn a 2-1 win over the Rebels.
Leafs head coach Adam DiBella said Boyd admitted after the game how nervous he was during the shootout. “I said hate to break it to you, but you’re shooting first in the next shootout.”
Frederick Larochelle, playing his best game in a Leafs’ jersey, stopped three Rebels players in the shootout to preserve the win.
Larochelle finished with 32 saves. His best of the night came during 3-on-3 overtime when he slid to his post to stop a Rebels’ one-timer.
“I think we saw why Freddie was the goalie of the year last year in the Okanagan,” said DiBella. “He was a big reason why we got two points tonight.”
Marko Pavlovic scored for the Leafs (5-2-3), who had scored 14 goals in the previous two games but struggled to find the back of the net Friday.
Leo Chartrand replied for the Rebels (4-5-1), with Lawczynski making 33 saves.
Nelson controlled play throughout the first period but couldn’t capitalize. That changed with two minutes left when Pavlovic tipped in a point shot by Kingsley Brockett for a power-play goal.
The Leafs got away with one shortly before the period ended. Owen McFarlane was handed a four-minute minor for kneeing, and the Rebels looked to have scored but the goal was immediately waved off as a player crashed into Larochelle.
Penalties bogged the game down as the officials became whistle happy. There were five penalties handed out in the first five minutes of the second period — some deserving, some questionable — and neither team was able to take advantage.
DiBella was diplomatic when asked about the officiating.
“We liked our game five-on-five. Everybody on the ice including the officials do their best to make the right call. Ultimately we have to adjust and take care of whatever happens on the ice. We preach to the players do the next right thing.”
Despite taking five penalties in the period, the Leafs maintained their 1-0 lead to the second intermission thanks to poor offence from the Rebels who appear to lack a sharpshooter on their roster.
But they didn’t need one to get their first goal of the game. Chartrand was on the doorstep when he slapped a rebound past Larochelle to tie the game at one seven minutes into the third period.
The penalty carousel meanwhile continued to spin in the third, which Boyd said the Leafs were able to roll with. Castlegar finished scoreless on nine power-play chances.
“Our penalty killers were good, they probably won the game for us if we’re being honest. It was a grinder but I thought we played really well.”
Leaflets: Nelson next visits Castlegar on Oct. 28. The three-game mini series then concludes in Nelson on Oct. 29.