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Leafs bounce back to shutout Braves, Cooper scores twice to lead Green and White

Nick Wihak fights off two Spokane players for the puck during the first period of Saturday's 4-0 KIJHL win over the Braves at the NDCC Arena. (Bottom), Ryan Cooper (center) was all smiles after scoring the game's opening goal. — Bruce Fuhr, The Nelson Daily

Ryan Cooper scored twice and Josh Williams recorded his third shutout of the season sparking the Nelson Leafs to a 4-0 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League victory over the Spokane Braves Saturday night at the NDCC Arena.

The win snapped a brief one-game losing skid for the Green and White.

Nelson opened the two-game home stand weekend with a narrow 2-1 loss Friday to Beaver Valley Nitehawks.

Saturday, the Leafs jumped all over the Braves, scoring twice three minutes into the game to take hold of the contest.

Cooper, receiving a gift-wrapped loose puck in front of the Braves net, opened the scoring just over a minute into the game.

Justin Podgorenko made it 2-0 following a similar breakdown in the Spokane defence.

Leaf coach Mario DiBella, a stickler for detail was pleased with the result despite times when the Leafs were inconsistent in their play.

"Well there were good moments and bad moments out there, but we came to play tonight,” DiBella confessed.

Nelson dominated most of the game, peppering Spokane goalie Ben Waslaski with 44 shots in total.

The Braves were having lots of trouble breaking free from their side of the ice with Leafs swarming from all sides.

Nelson on average for the night were getting 15 shots per period compared to Spokane's five per period.

Ryan Keilty, who was not in the lineup Friday against the Nitehawks, was back in the lineup in place of Jaiden LaPotre.

"Coach (DiBella) said I was lacking certain things from my last game and I think I showed what he needed tonight,” said Keilty, connecting for his second goal of the season after converting a breakaway.

DiBella agreed that Keilty had "improved" not saying much else on the matter.

DiBella, on the other hand, had a bit more to say regarding Leaf Game star Ryan Cooper.

"He really is special with how well he can start up plays and get the puck where it needs to be,” DiBella explained.

Cooper’s two goals came in the first and third periods.

With just over two minutes remaining, Cooper was on the ice looking for his hat-trick goal on the Leaf power play.

"I wasn't thinking about getting the hat trick at the time, I was just trying to throw pucks at the net," Cooper said.

When asked about his goals, Cooper said, “the second one felt more natural as I had my eyes closed for the shot.”

“I like to visualize my shots as it makes me more comfortable when I shoot," Cooper added.

Nelson, tied for top spot in the Murdoch Division with Grand Forks Border Bruins, begin a five-game road trip Friday with a game in the Sunflower City against the Castlegar Rebels.

Nelson then makes stops in Spokane, Kimberley, Golden and Invermere before returning home October 27th to face the Golden Rockets.

BLUELINES: Ryan Cooper now leads the Leafs in scoring with 12 points — six goals and six assists — two points head of David Sanchez. Jackson Zimmermann and Sawyer Hunt are tied for third, each with nine points. . . .Netminder Josh Williams has jumped back into the lead in goalies with a 1.14 goals against average. Owen Sikkes of Beaver Valley is second at 1.71. Williams is 6-0 on the season.