Jack Karran waits for a pass in the slot during the Nelson Leafs’ game Saturday against the Castlegar Rebels. Photo: Tyler Harper

Rebels hammer Leafs 5-1, end Nelson’s 7-game winning streak

Castlegar used a three-goal second period to embarrass the Leafs

First place in the league, a seven-game winning streak and a return home after a long road trip to a packed arena. Saturday’s game should have been a victory lap, and it was — just not for the Nelson Leafs.

John Moeller scored twice and the Castlegar Rebels used a three-goal second period to stun the Leafs 5-1 in a game that splashed cold water on Nelson’s dream start to the season.

Leafs captain Sawyer Hunt, usually an affable presence on the ice, appeared to get more and more frustrated as the game went on. Near the end he returned from one shift and sat alone at the end of the bench.

In a telling moment, Jack Karran skated off the ice and exchanged a head shake and frown with Hunt.

“I was pretty choked,” said Hunt.

Defenceman Michael LeNoury, one of the team’s assistant captains, struggled after the game to describe what had happened.

“That was embarrassing to the say the least,” he said, before adding after a pause, “I’m so mad.”

Vince Bitonti, Chris Breese and Jordan Wood also scored for the Rebels (15-7-1), who won their third straight contest and ninth out of their last 10 games. Curt Doyle meanwhile made 24 saves for the visitors.

Nicholas Wihak scored and Sam Burford stopped 28 shots for the Leafs (19-4-2), who were returning home after six games away.

It was a busier than usual night at the Nelson and District Community Complex. Minor hockey and curling tournaments likely contributed to the increased attendance, along with the added draw of the annual Friends of the Family Benefit hosted by the Leafs.

And every person who showed up saw Nelson lay the proverbial egg.

“We have to take responsibility for how we came out and played,” said head coach Mario DiBella. “As a coach I take responsibility for not having the troops prepared. We came out, we didn’t play to our systems, we didn’t use our speed, we just didn’t show up and that’s an inexcusable thing.

“Largest fan-base of the year and we decide not to show up and play.”

An unlucky bounce for the Leafs put them down by one just four minutes into the game. Bitonti tossed a lazy shot in from the blue-line that deflected off a Leafs player and knuckled under Burford’s pads.

But two minutes later Nelson had a deflection go its way. LeNoury’s shot was redirected by Wihak past Doyle and the game was tied at one.

A nifty Castlegar play gave Everett Hicks a chance to put the Rebels back ahead by one. Hicks slipped in behind the Leafs’ defence and just remained onside as his teammate put a pass on his stick while being hit into the board. Hicks had a good look but Burford held his nerve to make the save.

Burford made another eyebrow-raising save minutes later. The Leafs were on the power play when the Rebels’ Breese tried to capitalize on a short-handed breakaway. He was denied though when Burford did the splits to keep the game tied.

Breese got his second chance after the break. Two minutes into the second period he was in front of the net for a tap under Burford’s pads to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead.

Everything got much, much worse for the Leafs after that.

Castlegar dominated the period with a terrific forecheck and a stifling neutral-zone defence. That constant pressure broke the Leafs, who managed just six unconvincing shots during the 20 minutes.

The Rebels took advantage with a goals by Moeller and Wood. Moeller shifted gears after a turnover at the Rebels’ blue-line and sped in for a fast goal, and two minutes later Wood slipped the puck past Burford’s pads for an astonishing 4-1 lead.

“It’s not like we let off the gas. We never really put on the gas,” said LeNoury.

Hunt said the team didn’t take to heart what their coaches were telling them during the first intermission.

“I thought some guys were going tonight, some guys weren’t,” he said. “To be successful you need the whole team going, not just some guys. So in the end that was the problem.”

The pace slowed to a crawl in the third period as Castlegar seemed content to hold its lead.

Castlegar put in the final nail with four minutes left in regulation. Hicks found Moeller in front of Burford for his second of the night, and that essentially ended a bummer of a night in Nelson.

Leaflets: The Leafs are back on the road for the next two games, Dec. 2 for a rematch at Castlegar and Dec. 8 at Beaver Valley. They return to home ice Dec. 9 against Grand Forks. … Nelson was missing F Logan Wullum, D Zach Morey (upper body) and D Dash Thompson. Wullum served the first of a three-game suspension for gross misconduct during Friday’s game in Grand Forks.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Nelson Leafs

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


Saturday’s debacle featured plenty of skirmishes. Photo: Tyler Harper

Just Posted

Adapting to love along the Columbia River

One man starts a GoFundme to help his partner with health costs caused on the trip where they met

West Kootenay SPCA hopes you’ll have a heart for Cupid

Cat who tangled with a bobcat seeking a permanent home

Leafs, Nitehawks to decide division title Saturday

The regular season ends in Nelson with both teams tied on points

Nelson Nordic Ski Club fundraising for new groomer

The club’s current machine is beginning to break down

Martial Arts for Justice aims to help 500 genocide survivors in Rwanda in 2020

The Nelson-based charity has also debuted its own YouTube channel

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Most Read