In a game that could be a preview to the Murdoch Division Final, the Nelson Leafs and Castlegar Rebels battled to a 4-4 overtime tie Saturday night in Kootenay International Junior Hockey League action at the NDCC Arena.
The game made no difference in the Murdoch standings as the Leafs clinched the title Friday with an overtime win over Grand Forks.
However, should the two teams advance from the first round of the playoffs, the rivalry will continue during the Murdoch Finals.
Saturday, like a heavyweight title bout, the teams dodged and weaved throughout, each applying heavy blows a times during the game.
Castlegar held periods leads of 2-1 and 3-2 before Brendan Makay and Ryan Piva scored in the third to give the Leafs a slim 4-3 lead.
Piva’s marker looked to be the winner as the speedy forward tucked a shot past Rebel netminder Curt Doyle with just over three minutes to play.
However, with time running out, John Moeller scored his second of the game sending the contest to extra time.
Castlegar outshot the Leafs 8-6 during overtime but could not beat Leafs goalie Josh Williams, who had a busy night facing 50 shots from the Rebels.
Jesse Belley and Ed Lindsey also scored for Castlegar while Logan Wullum and Nicholas Wihak replied for the Leafs.
The win runs Nelson’s unbeaten streak to seven games and a nine-point advantage over the Rebels entering the final week of the season.
Castlegar will meet rival Beaver Valley Nitehawks in the first round of the playoffs while the Leafs will face either Grand Forks or Spokane.
The Bruins hold a six-point lead on the Braves.
Spokane has three road games remaining, starting Tuesday in Fruitvale against the Nitehawks.
Should Spokane win Tuesday, it will set up a showdown that could to a long way to determining final playoff spot in the Murdoch Division between the Braves and Bruins Friday in Grand Forks.
Spokane concludes the season Saturday in Castlegar.
BLUELINES: Prior to the game, Leafs brass saluted four graduating players — Captain Sawyer Hunt, Zach Morey, Josh Williams and Nicholas Wihak. Each of the players were presented with awards by Matt and Kate Walker of Nelson Brewing Company. . . .Hunt added two assists to his point total to run his consecutive point streak to 14 games. . . .Saturday’s KIJHL game between Creston and Columbia Valley was postponed due to Creston bus issues. The league said the game is to be re-scheduled. . . . Playoff dates have been released with Nelson hosting the first round of the Murdoch Semi Final beginning Friday, February 23rd at the NDCC Arena. Game two is scheduled for Saturday, February 24th in Nelson. . . .Saturday’s game attracted more than 800 fans to the NDCC Arena. . . . Nelson finished with a 4-0-1 record wearing the Autism Awareness jerseys.