Nelson Leafs captain Tyler Pisiak waits for his shot moments before scoring Thursday against Beaver Valley. Photo: Tyler Harper

Nelson Leafs captain Tyler Pisiak waits for his shot moments before scoring Thursday against Beaver Valley. Photo: Tyler Harper

Tenzin Mint stops 25 as Leafs beat Nitehawks 2-1 in Game 5

Nelson has a 3-2 series lead over Beaver Valley

Tenzin Mint said he felt “locked in” before Game 5. The Nelson Leafs would have been in trouble if he wasn’t.

Mint made 25 saves, many of them with crowds of players in his crease, and the Leafs held on Thursday to edge the Beaver Valley Nitehawks 2-1.

The Nelson native allowed a goal on the Nitehawks’ third shot of the game, but made several crucial saves with his team in penalty trouble.

“Just like all playoffs, you’ve got to learn to battle back from that goal,” he said. “I think we did that pretty well today and took control.”

Leafs head coach Mario DiBella said he thought Mint played his best game of the season.

“He tracked pucks really well, he fought to freeze rebounds. He was athletic, square to the puck and he played a huge game for us.”

The win gives the Leafs a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Neil Murdoch Division final. They can take the series Friday in Fruitvale. A Game 7, if necessary, would be played Saturday in Nelson.

Mint said he’s mindful of what happened in the first round when the Leafs trailed the Castlegar Rebels 3-1 in the series before rallying back to win in seven games. He said he wants to avoid another Game 7 against Beaver Valley.

“I don’t want to be battling. It’s good to be in the lead here.”

Tyler Pisiak and Bennett Anklewich each scored for the Leafs.

Ethan Jang replied for the Nitehawks, while Kevin Engman made 27 saves.

Nelson started slow and had difficulty creating any sustained pressure. The Nitehawks, meanwhile, scored on their third shot of the game. Moments after a faceoff, a shot bounced off Mint’s pads right to Jang who capitalized for the 1-0 lead.

The period ended with a spearing call on Nitehawks forward Joel Smyth, which gave the Leafs a chance at tying the game after the intermission. Pisiak made sure they didn’t waste it. He skated around one defender and waited out Engman to score an important goal.

That seemed to pick the Leafs up, and the spent the rest of the period outplaying Beaver Valley. The Nitehawks were also dealt another setback when Jang was tossed from the game for checking from behind.

The Leafs took their first lead of the game in the third on a play that had fans out of their seats.

Tyson Lautard’s perfect pass found Anklewich between two defenders that caught them by surprise. Anklewich got the jump on them, deked Engman and scored as he fell for a highlight-reel goal.

DiBella said the goal came on a set play designed by assistant coach Adam DiBella.

“Lautard just absolutely the split the seam and put Anklewich in. Last time Anklewich got a break like that he shot. This time he froze the goalie. … It was a brilliant goal, executed really well.”

The Leafs inexplicably allowed the Nitehawks plenty of time to tie the game with two poor penalties.

Liam Noble took a roughing penalty, which Nelson survived, only for Bryce Sookro to go to the box for cross checking. But Mint made several saves to help the Leafs keep the lead through four jaw-clenching minutes.

Beaver Valley pulled Engman with a little over a minute left, but the Leafs survived to move one win away from the conference final.

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