Now or never as Leafs begin run toward playoffs
The Nelson Leafs are currently the best team in the entire Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
The Green and White boast a league-best 32-11-2-1 record heading into the final three weeks of the season.
However, the season could fall like a house of cards should the Leafs falter in the final six games, beginning Friday in Fruitvale against the defending KIJHL champs.
“I believe so,” said Leaf coach Frank Maida when asked about the February games.
“We’ve got a big weekend coming up against BV and (at the end of the season against Castlegar) these are the top three teams in the league I think those games will go a long way to deciding who wins the Murdoch.”
Nelson hosts the Hawks in a return engagement Saturday at 7 p.m. in the NDCC Arena.
The Leafs then travel to meet Revelstoke and Sicamous on the road next weekend before concluding the season with a home-and-home series against the rival Rebels from Castlegar.
Nelson missed out on a great opportunity to make the final six-game ride a little easier when the club lost 4-0 at home to Revelstoke Grizzlies.
Once again the Leafs outshot the Grizzlies but could score when it counted.
“We’re focusing not just on the offence but also playing a full game in all facets of the game,” Maida, trying to sugarcoat the fact the Leafs have difficulty scoring of late, including Sunday’s shutout loss.
“We just want to play our game and everything will take care of itself.”
It’s now or never for the Leafs.
First up is the Hawks, a team Nelson holds a 4-2 season series against and has outscored 41-26.
Beaver Valley is a much different team than the one Nelson smoked 12-0 earlier this season.
The Hawks, trailing Nelson by five points, now have one of the most potent offences in the league thanks to the addition of Ryan Edwards (18 points in six games) and high-scoring Dallas Calvin (second in league scoring with 70 points).
Nelson may get some much-needed infusion into the lineup with the return of center Matthew Naka.
The Vanderhoof star has been sorely missed since breaking an ankle in a freak accident before Christmas.
“We’ve got guys coming back off injury and everyone is skating so hopefully we’ll have a full lineup for Friday,” Maida explained.
ICE CHIPS: Expect to see a lot of Marcus Beesley down the stretch in goal. The 20-year-old Prince George native was traded for to backstop the Leafs in the playoffs. . . . Castlegar travels to the East Kootenay to face the Columbia Valley Rockies Friday and Golden Rockets Saturday. . . . One player the Leafs must get going is captain and leading scorer Colton Schell. The veteran winger has nine points and two goals since Christmas.