The Nelson Leafs hit the ice for the third time this weekend taking on KIJHL champions the Osoyoos Coyotes.
The Coyotes were fresh off of a win from their Saturday night game against the Castlegar Rebels, but they were no much for the Leafs as they took the win 5-3.
“It obviously feels really good to win,” said Leafs head coach Frank Maida. “Beating the defending champs after the three day weekend with a short bench and missing a couple key elements to our team but our guys stepped up and played a great game.”
The Leafs got the high intensity game going with their first goal by Brett Norman with assists by James Sorey and Riley Henderson.
Momentum switched hands just a couple minutes later when the Leaf’s Brett Norman took a two minute penalty for roughing giving the Coyotes a powerplay leading to their first powerplay goal.
With the score even at 1-1 the Leafs came back strong with a goal from Nik Newman with an assist by Tyler Parfeniuk.
The Coyotes took a two minute penalty for roughing giving the Leafs a one-man advantage leading to a powerplay goal by Brett Norman with assists by Matti Jmaeff and Colton Malmsten.
The advantage switched after the Leafs took another penalty for hooking.
The Coyotes used their speed to get to the net and shot the puck high leading to a powerplay goal.
The Leafs kept the energy high skating hard to the net and making smart passes leading to the last goal of the first period by Colton Malmsten with assists by Brett Norman and Matt Jmaeff.
“We wanted to keep everything simple and approach every shift like it’s our last shift,” said Maida. “And we really tried to use the whole team.”
Osoyoos made a change to their line up for the second period pulling their goalie Darren Hogg and sending in backup goaltender Jordan Gluck.
The second period started four on four as penalties for both teams carried over from the first period.
There were several penalties for roughing and hitting from behind in the first period and the tension spilled over into the second period with pushing and shoving but there were no penalties in the second period.
Both teams used their speed to get the puck to the net but both teams were unable to get it in keeping the score 4-2 going into the third period.
Seconds after the third period started the Coyotes were sent to the penalty box for misconduct and roughing.
Colton Malmsten also took a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Leafs had a one man advantage for two minutes but the Coyotes didn’t let them kill the penalty easily.
“I think the work we’ve been doing on our powerplay and penalty kill has really paid off,” said Maida. “We scored a few powerplay goals and we killed off quite a few penalties in the third period against one of the best teams in the league. “
During their powerplay, Osoyoos rushed the net and in the chaos Leafs goaltender Andrew Walton lost his stick.
Walton continued to defend the net as his stick laid several feet from the net.
Leafs captain Parfeniuk gave his stick to Walton until play was stopped allowing Walton to grab his stick.
Nelson fans erupted in cheers as the Leafs brought the score to 5-2 with a goal by Newman with assists by Carson Willians and Dallon Stoddart.
Seconds after a face-off Coyotes’ player Landyn Howze took a high stick to the face from Jmaeff and Howze collapsed to the ice holding his face.
Howze was taken off the ice by the team medic and Jmaeff took a four minute penalty.
The Coyotes used their powerplay to shoot the puck in high passed Walton making the score 5-3.
Both teams continued to take advantages of scoring opportunities but neither team was successful in getting the puck in the net.
Within minutes of the end of the game, the Leafs took four minutes in penalties as Riley Henderson was sent to the bench for game misconduct and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Henderson was swearing and yelling at the officials as he skated off the ice and even shoved one of the officals.
The Leafs almost made the score 6-3 with a couple minutes left in the game, when Newman shot the puck at the Osoyoos net but it hit the right post missing the net.
The Coyotes pulled their goalie and the Leafs attempted to score on the empty net but the game finished with a final score of 5-3.
There was a significant shift in the game after the first period where the Leafs scored the bulk of their goals, but Maida wasn’t concerned about the change.
“I wouldn’t say the first period was any different than the last two, the game just got a lot tighter in the third period. I thought we played a really good third period,” said Maida. “We had to kill a lot of penalties and I think we did a good job.”
The Leafs took a total of 12 penalties throughout the game which put a lot of pressure on goaltender Andrew Walton to make saves when the Coyotes had a powerplay.
“The challenge for me was all the penalties we took. That was our downfall I think,” he said.
Walton played the Coyotes last year while he was still goaltender for the Fernie Ghostriders.
“I got the chance to play them last year at the Cyclone Taylor Cup I knew what they were like but obviously they’re a different team this year too,” he said. “I just expected the best and prepared for that.”
Today’s game was the third game that the Leafs have played since Friday. Over the next 10 days the Leafs will play a total of seven games.
“As you start playing the games get tougher. I think we have nine games in 13 days or something like that,” said Walton. “Every game is a battle so everyone needs to get their rest so that we can prepare for the next one.”
On Friday, they faced their first opponent, the Grand Forks Border Bruins where they dominated the game winning it 11-1.
Even though it was a big win, and the team made the game look easy, Maida said it was important to keep discipline in the team.
“Those are tough games to play,” said Maida. “We had to keep everyone in a system structured game. We worked hard and worked through it and it was a good result.”
The Leafs came out with another win last night against the Creston Valley Thunder Cats. The final score of the game was 6-5.
Nelson lost what could have been a three goal lead late in the third period.
Maida said it was important to get the team back on track to seal the win
“It was a good game,” said Maida. “I think we had about four minutes where we kind of took things for granted and let them back into the game.”
The Leafs are now getting ready to play Beaver Valley on Tuesday at the Nelson and District Community Complex.