You never want to see your team lose, but coach Frank Maida was pleased to see his squad bounce back so quickly.
The Nelson Leafs used old-fashioned hard work on Saturday night to beat the Kelowna Chiefs 4-3 in front of their home fans at the Nelson and District Community Centre (NDCC).
The win was a kind of redemption for the squad after losing their first home game (in regulation time) of the season 4-2 to the North Okanagan Knights on Friday.
“We didn’t have any puck luck on Friday and Saturday we beared down and I thought we buried our chances and played a great game,” said Maida.
Alec Wilkinson was hot on the ice again, scoring a hat trick on Saturday with help from Travis Wellman, Jamie Vlanich and Robson Cramer.
The Leafs scored first early in the game with Wilkinson finding the back of the net.
Nearing the midway point of the period, Cole Arcuri made it 2-0 Leafs from Carson Willans.
But Kelowna would strike back scoring two quick goals.
Jagger Bowles scored and then Adam Beatty scored shortly after to tie the game at two before the end of the first.
Midway through the second, the Chiefs Jordan Salahor got the go-ahead goal for Kelowna and it appeared that the Leafs could lose two in a row at home.
However, Wilkinson evened the score at three.
The teams were still tied going into the third period. The squads appeared destined for overtime as neither side could bulge the twine, but with just over a minute left in the game, Wilkinson scored his third to seal the victory for the home team.
The Leafs dominated the play, out shooting their opponents 40-21.
Friday’s game was the complete opposite with Nelson having trouble generating any offence and only managing one shot on net in the third.
“It was just puck luck in all zones. We fell behind and we were playing catch up the entire game and probably put a little more pressure on ourselves than we should have.
“We tried to force the play and didn’t get any luck,” said Maida.
The North Okanagan Knights were full credit for the 4-2 win.
The Leafs found the back of the net first as Wellman scored on the power play.
But the Knights kept up good pressure and Tanner Cochrane scored with just under five minutes left in the first.
Cochrane scored again with 1:21 left in the first and then again with just three seconds left in the opener to earn the natural hat trick and give the visitors a 3-1 lead.
The Leafs’ Wilkinson narrowed the margin to 3-2 on a goal at the midway point of the second, but that was as close as Nelson would get.
Blake Culbert made it 4-2 before the end of the second.
The Knights’ defence took over in the third as Nelson barely generated any offence.
Maida said it was a tough loss but, after the game he told the players in the dressing room to simply “bear down, bury our chances and take nothing for granted.”
The advice seems to have worked judging from Saturday’s powerful performance.
Maida said the squad plans to carry the momentum from Saturday’s win into their next home game tonight (December 4) when they take on the Spokane Braves. Puck drops at 7 p.m.
At practice this week, Maida said the team will work on some basics.
“Just some zone coverage, working some things in our zone and some basic hockey. Just some basics we need to sharpen up on.”
The Leafs are currently tied with the Kamloops Storm at the top of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League standings with a game in hand over the Doug Birks Division team.