Heading into the final weekend of the season, the Nelson Junior Leafs will get an opportunity to prime for playoffs against the league’s best squad.
With the post-season set to begin next week, the locals have known who their first round competition will be for several weeks now. But to prepare for what is expected to be a seven-game war against the Castlegar Rebels, the Leafs will warm up with a home-and-home against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
“We worked really hard this week to pick our game back up mentally and physically,” said Leafs forward Nik Newman. “I think we are going to give them good games.”
The Nitehawks will skate away from the 52-game regular season with the KIJHL banner as the top team in the league over the long haul. The Fruitvale club comes into the weekend with a 41-6-0-3 record. Their 85 points are 11 clear of the next best KIJHL team, the Rebels.
Despite the impressive regular season, the Nitehawks have not had an easy ride when they lock horns with the Leafs. The two Neil Murdoch Division rivals have played six games so far this season, four of them have been decided by one goal and the two others by two goals (both empty netters). Though the Leafs came out on the short end five out of six times, they were one or two good bounces away from victory in every contest.
“I know it’s going to be a big game,” said Leafs rookie goaltender Patrick Defoe, who is expected to get the start in at least one of the games. “I’ve only played Beaver Valley once this year and it was a really close game, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Leafs travel to Grand Forks tonight to take on the opposite end of the the KIJHL standings when they tangle with the Border Bruins. The Leafs host the Nitehawks Friday at the Nelson and District Community Complex starting at 7 p.m. On Saturday night they travel to Fruitvale.