m n The lights may have gone out but that was fine — Ryan Piva provided all the power the Nelson Leafs would need.
Piva scored twice as Nelson shut out the Grand Forks Border Bruins 2-0 on Tuesday for the Leafs’ final game prior to the holiday break.
The 17 year old has been on fire lately. He’s scored the team’s last three goals and has six points through the four games. Against Grand Forks, Piva always seemed to be in just the right place to make a play.
“I think just in practice I’ve been trying to get a little more in the dirty areas where I can put myself in position to score,” he said. “Just working on those little things.”
Josh Williams made 20 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as the Leafs (22-6-3) won to stay in first place atop the Neil Murdoch Division, just ahead of surging Castlegar.
“We just want to stay in first place,” said Piva. “It feels good going into the break leading the table.”
Ross King stopped 31 shots in net for the scoreless Border Bruins (12-18-2).
The Leafs opened the game with a pair of power plays, but the most notable moment in the first period wasn’t anything that happened on the ice. A bank of lights went out eight minutes after the puck dropped, delaying the game for about 20 minutes.
Leafs head coach Mario DiBella, who owns an electrical company, left the bench to inspect the system himself at the Nelson and District Community Complex. “I just reset the breakers and the fixtures reset and all was good, all was fine at the NDCC after that,” he said with a grin.
Eventually the hockey game resumed, albeit at the pace of a chess match.
Yet another delay occurred when two players began slashing at each other on the ice, and Leafs forward Ryan Cooper was ejected for interference from the bench.
Moments later the game stopped again as both sides began throwing punches behind Nelson’s net. That led to four Nelson players crammed into the penalty box while two Border Bruins sharing the adjacent cell.
Then, finally, a goal. A shot by Justin Podgorenko rebounded off King straight to Piva, who scored while being checked to the ice to give Nelson a 1-0 lead heading into the intermission after a period of hockey that seemed like an eternity.
Piva had his second of the game seven minutes after the break. He was in front of the net during a power play to deflect a Michael Bladon shot past King to double Nelson’s advantage.
“Ryan’s come on like gangbusters,” said DiBella. “He’s understanding what’s being asked of him and he’s executing. He’s got great speed, he’s got a good hockey IQ and we’re just pleased he’s having the success that he has.”
The post saved Williams from allowing his first goal deep in the second. The Border Bruins had the Leafs goalie sprawling when a shot by Cory Loring rang off the iron.
The best thing that could be said about the third period was that it went on unhindered by electrical outages.
David Sanchez might had had Nelson’s third goal if it weren’t for what the refs said was a hand pass. Who he was passing to, alone and diving into the Border Bruins crease, was unclear, although the goal coming off its moorings likely would have negated the score anyway.
Nelson was missing several suspended players following the post-game brawl Saturday against Castlegar. Logan Wullum and Dash Thompson were each handed one-game penalties, while Brent Headon is gone three games. Jack Karran and Nicholas Wihak were also missing after both suffered upper-body injuries Saturday, while Ethan Land was also out serving a suspension from a previous game.
What that meant for the Leafs was the need to call up three affiliate players from the Kootenay Ice major midget team in Trail. Brothers Nathan and Marty Ingram suited up, while Keenan Crossman made his Junior B debut. The trio of rookies looked more than capable in relief.
Crossman, the captain of the Ice, said he felt fine once he was warmed up.
“It was a lot more physical than major midget, so I had to adapt to that,” said the 17-year-old Trail native. “But it was good.”
DiBella said the Leafs had prior knowledge of the players because assistant coach Isaac MacLeod teaches at the Trail hockey academy. He was particularly impressed by Crossman.
“We were thrilled we were able to AP him and he showed why he is the captain of that major midget team. He played with poise, he was gritty, everything we asked of him he did and he had great success as a result.”
Leaflets: Grand Forks’ attention was just as often on Leafs defenceman Michael LeNoury as it was on the game at hand. LeNoury was targeted for his hit to the head of Border Bruins forward Briar Whyte on Dec. 9. Whyte was hospitalized and remains out of action, which wasn’t forgotten by the visitors who hounded LeNoury throughout the contest. … The Leafs don’t return to the ice until Dec. 29 on the road against Beaver Valley. They then host the Nitehawks in a New Years’ Eve matinee.