It’s obvious from the first two chapters of the book titled, the 2010-11 KIJHL season of the Nelson Leafs; this read can only get better.
Although it was painfully obvious the Castlegar Rebels storyline also needs a little work.
Still it was the Rebels escaping the weekend series with a sweep and the Leafs making a quick about turn back to the drawing board to prepare for the writing of chapter three.
Castlegar completed the double Saturday at the NDCC Arena, getting timely scoring en route to a 5-1 thrashing of the Leafs before 460 fans.
Friday the Rebels opened the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season with a 3-0 shutout of Nelson in the Sunflower City.
“It’s the first time we’ve played together as a team so there’s obviously some kinks we need to work out,” said towering Leaf winger Cody Abbey from outside the Nelson dressing room.
“The other thing is we’re playing not to lose . . . and we’re not playing to win,” added the 6’3”, 190-pound Abbey. “If your playing to win you’re a little more hard nosed and there’s a lot more intensity in your game.”
Castlegar picked right up offensively where the team left off Friday night as Ryan Aynsley and Erik Wentzel scored power play markers to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
The Leafs gained a bit of spark before the period ended when veteran center Gavin Currie finally solved Andrew Walton in the Castlegar nets.
The goal came in the final minute of the frame and ended a 79-plus-minute shutout streak by the veteran Rebel backstop over the Leafs.
However, the Leafs could not take advantage of momentum in the second, even after the Rebels gift-wrapped five power player opportunities, including a full two-man advantage to start the period.
Walton, combining with some impressive penalty killing from his Rebel teammates, continually frustrated the Leafs as Nelson out shot the visitors 9-1 in the frame and 24-7 through 40 minutes.
“Walton is definitely a good goalie but we just need to move that puck around quicker to open up the ice a little more,” Abbey explained.
In the third the Rebels got back to success of the night before, scoring twice in a span of 21 seconds.
Wentzel, with his second of the game and fourth point of the weekend, tapped in a loose puck past Leaf goalie Darren Hogg before Tyler Robinson scored to give Castlegar the commanding 4-1 advantage.
Leaf assistant captain Adrian Moyls had a chance to cut into the Castlegar lead but missed a penalty shot after being hauled down on a breakaway.
Aynsley, with his second of the night, completed the scoring for Castlegar.
“I don’t think I would call this “mid-season form” . . . without our goaltending this would have been a completely different outcome,” confessed Rebel rookie skipper Steve Junker.
“I think Nelson played extremely well. I think we got away from the game plan that we finished with last night (in Castlegar) . . . simple hockey. We tried to get cute and fancy and our goaltender saved the day.”
The cute and fancy Junker referred to put the Rebels on the defence for most of the second period.
“When your stuck in and play in your own end all night (penalties) are going to happen,” explained Junker, who played three seasons in the Western Hockey League for the Spokane Chiefs before being drafted by the New York Islanders in the 1991 NHL entry draft.
“When you play in your own end and your forced to clutch and grab . . . that’s what we did. We didn’t move the puck and forced our “D” to take penalties.”
“We were just lucky it didn’t cost us,” he added.
For the Leafs, the club has six days to work out the kinks Abbey talked about.
Nelson hosts Beaver Valley in another Murdoch Division rivalry game Friday at the NDCC Arena.
Saturday the Leafs travel to Grand Forks for face the Bruins before returning for a rare Sunday afternoon encounter against the Penticton Lakers.
“We’ll have a hard week of practice which should be good,” said Abbey. “ We’ve made all of our cuts so we’ll be able to practice as a team and be ready to go for next weekend.”
BLUELINES: Nelson was missing veteran rearguard Tyler Parfeniuk from the lineup Saturday with a shoulder injury. . . . Leaf rookie head coach Chris Shaw rotated his goalies with both Darren Hogg and Marcus Beesley seeing action. . . . Shaw has decided to keep a distinct local flavour on the Leafs with no less than four Nelson Minor Hockey grads on the team and six West Kootenay players if Kaslovian Cody Abbey and Trail’s Walker Sidoni are included in the mix. The four NMHA players are forwards Adrian Moyls, Dallon Stoddart and 16-year-old Adam Wheeldon and defenceman Blake Arcuri. Wheeldon is the son of former Nelson coach Simon Wheeldon.