It’s time to drop the puck, for real.
After four games of exhibition play, the Nelson Leafs are preparing for their regular season opener on Friday night.
The local hockey squad earned a 1-1-2 record in exhibition play, following a pair of weekend home games — a 4-2 loss on Saturday night to the Creston Valley Thunder Cats and a 5-5 tie on Sunday against the Beaver Valley Nitehawks.
Saturday was the first home game of the exhibition schedule for the Leafs who played sloppy in the first two periods, falling behind 4-1 to Creston Valley after 40 minutes.
A much improved Nelson squad came out in the third, but it was too little, too late.
“The third period, that’s going to be our signature style of play,” said head coach David McLellan.
“Aggressive forecheck, first to the puck more than not. I liked the third period, didn’t like the first or second at all.”
He said the players seemed to lose their structure at the beginning of the game.
“We certainly weren’t focused.”
Matt MacDonald and Branden Chow score the Leafs’ goals in the losing cause.
Nelson’s final exhibition game was a 5-5 tie against Beaver Valley on Sunday
Now that training camp and exhibition play is over, the Leafs coach knows he has some hard decisions to make before the season opener on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Nelson and District Community Complex against the Nitehawks.
“We have to make some big decisions, but we are still waiting for people to come here,” said McLellan.
He said the focus right now is to add to Nelson’s top six forwards.
“Hopefully that will come from the trickle down from the higher levels or we’re going to have to try and acquire a little bit more up front, a little scoring touch. But, every team wants that.”
The coach said having Aaron Dunlap back is a major boost to the squad’s line up.
“That’s been huge for us. He’s a leader, certainly on and off the ice and his work ethic is second to none.”
Other teams in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have been approaching McLellan with trade offers for some of the Leafs’ defencemen, but he doesn’t want to do a deal yet.
“At this stage we are not moving any of the top four,” he said.
However, if the club can’t get a top forward, they may have to sacrifice a defenceman in order to fill the need.
With the exhibition season behind him, McLellan said he is pleased with how well the team has come together, considering the short amount of time they have had. But more work is needed.
“We’re going to have to work hard this year. That’s going to be the focus for us. We are going to win the ugly games the way we are right now, at least to start the year.”
Nelson opens the regular season on Friday when they host the Beaver Valley Nitehawks at the Nelson and District Community Complex. Puck drops at 7 p.m.
On Saturday the Leafs host the Castlegar Rebels at the NDCC, also at 7 p.m.