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Leafs set out on road to face Kelowna, North Okanagan

Leafs players are hoping to climb out of an early season slump that has seen the team go winless to open the season. — Bruce Fuhr, The Nelson Daily

It’s not that the Nelson Leafs have been playing terribly to start the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season.

It’s more that the Green and White are digging a hole early in games that’s proving to be a bit more of a task to climb out.

The Leafs, starting the weekend last in the Murdoch Division with a 0-2-0-0-2 record, will again try to Get off the Schneid beginning Friday in Kelowna when the Murdoch Division squad travels to the Central Okanagan to begin a two-game set against Bill Ohlhausen Division.

First up is the always tough Kelowna Chiefs before Nelson ventures up Highway 97 to meet the North Okanagan Knights Saturday in Armstrong.

“We need to start games better,” Leafs assistant coach Adam DiBella admitted when asked about the slow start.

“We have had strong second and third periods.

“However, the first 20 minutes of the game has been our Achilles Heel. We are losing games based on the hole we are putting ourselves in after first period. We need to be committed to playing and working smart for a full 60 minutes.”

In four games this season, not once has the Leafs held a lead.

Twice, during the home opener against Fernie, the Ghostriders held one-goal leads before winning in overtime.

The next night in Creston, the Thunder Cats blitz the Leafs early en route to a 5-1 victory.

Last week against Kimberley, the Nitros built up a 3-1 lead before the Leafs tied the game. However, Kimberley won in extra time.

Sunday, at home against Sicamous, the Eagles led 4-1 midway through the second period before the Leafs staged a bit of a comeback, only to lose 4-3.

“They say you can’t win championships in September, but you can sure fall way behind in the playoff race,” DiBella said.

“Our division is going to be so competitive this year every point is going to matter in the end.”

“In saying all of that, the sky is not falling and we like the players we have here,” DiBella added. “(We believe) there is a lot of potential in this group.”

Injury Bug Hitting Leafs

The Leafs coaching staff is going to wait a little longer to get team captain David Sanchez into the lineup. The 20-year-old forward remains out of the lineup with a lower body injury.

DiBella said defenceman Andrew Gates and forward Shawn Grobowsky will also not play in the Okanagan Road Trip.

He also said there are two forwards and an additional defenceman that will make the trip but will be game-time decisions.

Early Season Moves Continue

Nelson has acquired defenceman Patrick Ramos from the Victoria Cougars of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.

The 19-year-old rearguard played just one game with Victoria after coming to the Island from Edmonton Mustangs of the Capital Junior Hockey League.

Nelson also release goalie Josh Bond. Bond started just one game for Nelson and was tabbed for the loss against Sicamous.

“We are very happy with (out current goalies) Curt Doyle and Carlos Siso,” DiBella said. “The two will share and compete for the net for the foreseeable future.”

DiBella also said the Leafs have another major announcement concerning the roster coming early next week.

100 Mile Wranglers Building Cyclone Taylor Cup Contender

The 100 Mile Wranglers have been busy during the offseason making sure they are a worthy host for the 2020 Cyclone Taylor Cup.

The Nelson Leafs helped the Wranglers cause by sending the rights to former player Ryan Piva to 100 Mile in exchange for a player development fee.

Piva played a few seasons with Nelson before heading to Drayton Valley of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

The Trail native scored six goals while adding eight assists for the Thunder in 29 games. He was scoreless as Drayton Valley was swept in the AJHL playoffs.

“We wish Ryan the best of luck this season and hope he and the Wranglers represent the KIJHL strongly as they host the tournament,” DiBella said.

The Cyclone Taylor Cup is BC Hockey’s Junior B Championship which features league winners from KIJHL, the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL), the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL) and the host team. The four teams play a round-robin tournament followed by the bronze and gold medal games.

Revelstoke Grizzlies of the KIJHL are the defending champions.