Just when it appeared the Nelson Leafs were going have an easier start to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs, those rivals to the west, Beaver Valley Nitehawks, stole the Murdoch crown from the Green and White on the final day of the regular.
The result forces the Leafs to meet pesky Spokane Braves to kick off the KIJHL playoffs Friday at the NDCC Arena while the Nitehawks face Castlegar Rebels in the other Murdoch Semi Final.
Nelson, second in the Murdoch Division with a 30-13-0-0-6 record, finished 20 points ahead of Spokane.
The teams split the season series, each team winning three times including once on the other team’s home ice. Nelson outscored the Braves 18-16 in the season series.
Last year Spokane, who has not advanced past the first round of the Murdoch Playoffs since 2010, pushed the Leafs to seven games before the Green and White, facing two elimination games, were able to win the series at home.
The first two games of the series go Friday and Saturday in Nelson, beginning at 7 p.m.
The series shifts to Spokane Monday and Tuesday. If necessary, Game five is scheduled to be played Thursday at the NDCC Arena with Game six Friday, March 6 back in Spokane.
If a seventh game is needed it will be back in Nelson, Saturday, March 7.
Leafs Comishin earns Murdoch Top Defenceman Award
Nelson Leafs were able to grab one of the major honours as the KIJHL announced its Divisional Award Winner Wednesday.
Kaleb Comishin was named the Murdoch’s top defenceman.
Commishin, a Nelson Minor Hockey grad, finished the season out of the lineup after suffering an injury in mid-January during a game against the Kimberley Dynamiters.
However, in 37 games this season, the veteran blueliner scored eight times while registering 26 assists.
Comishin totalled 17 points anchoring the Leafs power play.
Beaver Valley Nitehawks led the award parade with three — Bradley Ross, the Most Valuable Player; Terry Jones, Coach of the Year; and Hunter Young as Top Goalie.
Rounding out the awards were Matthew Klenk of Spokane Braves, as Most Sportsmanlike Player; and Elvis Slack of Grand Forks Border Bruins capturing Rookie of the Year.
Brock Palmer of Kimberley Dynamiters was named Eddie Mountain MVP for the second consecutive season.
In the Okanagan Conference, Kayson Gallant of Kelowna won MVP in the Bill Ohlhausen Division while Jaxon Danilec of Sicamous Eagles took home the award in the Doug Birks Division.
Rounding out the KI Playoff Series
KI regular season winner Kimberley Dynamiters host Creston Valley Thunder Cats as the league opens the post season on eight fronts.
The other Eddie Mountain Division series has Columbia Valley traveling to Fernie to face the Ghostriders.
In the Okanagan Conference, Kelowna Chiefs host North Okanagan Knights, Princeton Posse face Summerland Steam, Chase Heat play host to 100 Mile House Wranglers and defending KIJHL Champion Revelstoke Grizzlies meet Kamloops Storm.