It took an overtime win in the last game of the season, but the Nelson Leafs have secured top spot in the Neil Murdoch Division of the KIJHL.
Austin Seaman was the hero for the Nelson squad, scoring in the first 30 seconds of overtime to give the Leafs a 2-1 victory over the second-place Beaver Valley Nitehawks in Fruitvale on Saturday night.
Seaman also scored the Leafs only other goal of the game.
“It feels great to get two goals and get the division title,” said Seaman after the game.
In overtime, the puck came to Seaman and he saw an opening on the goalie’s blocker side. He shot the puck which went post, and then in. That’s when the celebration started.
“I was speechless, I couldn’t believe I did that. I owe it all to the team, they set me up for that.”
The other hero for the local squad was goaltender Adam Maida who got the start in net in place of the injured Brad Rebagliati.
Maida was outstanding between the pipes, making save after save as the Nitehawks peppered the net in the third period. When all was said and done, Maida stopped 45 of 46 shots he faced.
“You know, it was a great team win,” said the modest Maida. “There’s been kind of a dark cloud over this rink for awhile but we pulled through and that’s all that matters now.”
Nelson has had difficulty winning at the nitehawks home rink, but only allowing one goal is a good way to end a losing streak.
“You know what, I have to give a lot of credit to my defencemen. They really kept Beaver Valley to the perimetre of the rink and let me see the puck and make the stops I had to.”
Maida was minding the cage at the opposite end of the ice when Seaman scored the winner, giving the goaltender a perfect view of the goal.
“I couldn’t believe it, it was amazing I just wanted to get down there and celebrate with the guys as quick as I could.”
Leafs head coach Frank Maida said he was proud of his team tonight.
“We had a solid team game. We had a great week of practice and prepared and stuck to our game plan.
“We focused on team defence this week and, they put a lot of pressure on us. We battled and gave them a lot of shots from the outside and took away all their second opportunities,” he said.
The coach also credited his goaltender for keeping the squad in the game.
“Adam played great for us tonight. He really made some big saves,” said the coach.
The victory seemed to be a little extra sweet for the squad, not just because of the division title, but because it took place in the Nitehawks rink.
“It’s always a tough building coming here and we have a great rivalry with Beaver Valley, they are a great hockey team.”
The Leafs don’t have a lot of time to enjoy the victory. The playoffs begin on Tuesday when the first-place Leafs host the fourth place Spokane Braves in game one of the best of seven series. The puck drops at 7 p.m. at the Nelson and District Community Complex.
“We are going to focus and get ready for the playoffs and go from there,” said the coach.
The Leafs were back at practice on Sunday (February 23).