Will the real Nelson Leafs please stand up?
By Bruce Fuhr
The Nelson Daily
Walker Sidoni exited the Leafs dressing room for a post-game interview, his ears still ringing after coach and GM Frank Maida blasted the players for a second poor performance in as many days.
It’s not Maida’s M.O. to rip the players after a loss.
But for two consecutive games the Leafs looked anything like a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League contender.
No the Green and White looked like a team not ready for prime time as Golden Rockets skated away with a 5-2 victory Sunday afternoon at the NDCC Arena.
The loss comes on the heels of a 7-3 shellacking the night before to division rival, and first round playoff opponent Castlegar Rebels. A team the Leafs totally dominated 6-2 Friday in the Sunflower City.
So Walker, what’s up with the Nelson Leafs?
“On Friday I think we were really ready for the game, we were ready to beat Castlegar and come Saturday we think this is just another game . . . and we weren’t ready for it and it showed because they scored right away,” a dejected Sidoni said.
Sunday, Nelson deserved better.
Carsen Willans missed on a breakaway, firing the puck over the net.
The usually consistent Patrick Martens whiffed on another chance.
Instead of finishing the period tied 1-1, Nelson should have been ahead by a wide margin after out shooting the Rockets 11-8.
Golden took advantage of the Leafs inconsistency by scoring three times less than six minutes into the second period.
Nelson tried to comeback, cutting the margin to 4-2 with seven minutes remaining in the third on a goal by Martens.
But Lyndon McBryan replied 41 seconds later to solidify the victory for the Rockets.
Saturday, Scott Morriseau scored 19 seconds into the game and the Rebels never looked back.
Stuart Walton led the Rebels with the hat trick while Morriseau added a pair.
Tyler Jones and Brenden Heinrich added singles while Willans, on a picture-perfect marker, Brett Norman and Martens replied for the Leafs.
Castlegar out shot the Leafs 33-23 and even the season series at 4-4.
“I just think we have to show up to the rink and do all the things we need to do when we play well,” Sidoni explained. “And when we do find that groove like we did (Friday) keep on doing them for every game.”
That groove really was evident Friday as a second-period onslaught of shots turned into four goals and a commanding 5-0 lead for the Leafs.
Martens, with his first of two on the night, Linden Horswill, Nick Newman, Matti Jmaeff and Colton Schell scored all the goals Nelson would need.
Three of Nelson’s goals came on the power play.
Walton and Morriseau, on the power play, made the score respectable for the home team as the two veterans ruined Andrew Walton’s shutout bid with two late goals.
Of course a lot of blame for the two losses could rest at the foot of backup goalie Patrick Defoe.
The Kelowna rookie was in the net for both losses, earning number one status with Andrew Walton out of town on a personal commitment.
But Sidoni feels Defoe deserves better.
“I know it’s got to be rough for Patrick,” Sidoni said.
“I don’t know why we play so bad in front of him sometimes,” Sidoni adds. “We don’t give him much support at all.”
Nelson plays out the string beginning Thursday in Grand Forks with a date against the Bruins.
Friday, Nelson hosts Murdoch champ Beaver Valley Nitehawks before concluding the regular season Saturday in Fruitvale.
Sidoni and Company can only hope the players have learned their lesson by sporting the Boy Scouts motto of “Be Prepared” and compete with the best.
Forget to show up and be ready to accept another tongue lashing at the hands of the coach and GM.
NOTES: Leaf forward Matti Jmaeff was a scratch Sunday after suffering a concussion Saturday during the Castlegar game. Jmaeff may not play until playoff depending on recovery. . . . The Leafs will be thankful the KIJHL hierarchy is starting the playoffs close to a week after the conclusion of the regular season after playing six games in nine days to conclude the season. Nelson opens the playoffs against Castlegar Friday, February 24. . . . For those keeping score at home, look for Andrew Walton to be in the nets for the Leafs when the playoffs open.