After playing seven of 10 games at home, the Nelson Leafs set out on the road for a five-game trip beginning Friday in Castlegar against the Murdoch Division rival Rebels.
The game is the first meaningful game since the Leafs upset the Rebels in the first round of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoffs last spring.
“Castlegar is always tough in their own barn, so I think it is important we try and set the tone early,” said Leaf GM Lance Morey on the eve of the early-season tilt.
“In saying that we will have to try and not give their potent power play too many chances,” Morey added.
“The Rebels have a very offensive team and one of the best power play in the league.”
Nelson enters the game two points behind the Grand Forks Border Bruins in Murdoch Division standings and five in front of the Rebels.
Nelson is coming off a 4-0 win over Spokane Braves while the Rebels scored 12 goals in two games to register wins over Creston and Fernie.
Castlegar is led by snipers John Moeller and Ed Lindsay, with total of 17 goals between them. Moeller, who tops the league in goals with 10, sits tied for third in KIJHL scoring with 17 points while Lindsay is tied for fifth with 16 points.
In contrast, Ryan Cooper, who leads Nelson is scoring is 23rd overall with 12 points.
However, the two teams are tied in offence, each with 39 goals to date.
Where the Leafs have a chance is the fact the team has been very stingy at the back end, led by the two-headed monster of Josh Williams and Quinn Yeager and a defence that continues to get better with age.
Williams is the top goalie in the league with a 1.14 goals against average while Yeager is 11th with a 2.44 GA.
“We have a strong defense and our goaltending has been very good,” Morey explained.
“Being able to roll four lines is a plus for us. There is no love lost between these two rivals so I think that in itself sets the stage for what is the first of an eight-game war.”
Leafs healthy to begin road trip
Other than a few bumps and bruises, GM Morey says the Leafs are healthy as the club sets out on the road leaving head coach Mario DiBella with some decisions on who is going to be in the lineup.
Leafs face tough Eddie Mountain road swing
Nelson travels to Spokane Sunday to complete the two-game weekend.
The Leafs play Kimberley Thursday, October 19, Golden Friday, October 20 and Columbia Valley, October 21 before returning home to host the Rockets on Friday, October 27.