Leafs hope history doesn't repeat itself, travel to Hawks' Country for key Murdoch matchup
It was close to a year ago when the high-flying Nelson Leafs began their descent out of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season.
Nelson was sitting pretty prior to the Christmas holiday break, and was primed to improve the view from the Murdoch Division penthouse after disposing of the Castlegar Rebels on home ice.
However, it was the Rebels that completely dominated the Green and White that cold December night, which started a slide the Leafs could not stop.
Fast forward to Friday in Fruitvale.
Nelson, is once again tops in the Murdoch Division with a five-point lead, face second-place Beaver Valley Nitehawks in a four-point showdown at the Hawks Nest.
The game is the first of three in December between the two Murdoch rivals, and the third of five against division heavyweights as teams begin the sprint to the playoffs.
“We’ve got to get back to the basics . . . what’s made us successful to date,” said Leaf coach Frank Maida when asked about the upcoming six games.
“We have to remind ourselves what’s got us here and have to get back to playing that style of game.”
The Leafs are still smarting from a 7-2 shellacking at the hands last week at the hands of the Fernie Ghostriders.
The game was the only contest of the weekend for the Green and White.
“It was just one of those games where it was a long bus ride and Fernie was ready to play while we just were not quite ready,” Maida confessed.
“We didn’t have a great start . . .. It just wasn’t our night.”
Nelson is 2-0 against Beaver Valley this season. Both wins have come at home, including a wild 6-4 victory where the Leafs rallied from a 4-0 deficit, scoring six times in the third period to pull out the win.
Friday, it’s a trip to the smallish Fruitvale Arena, where wins have been far and few between of late for Leaf teams.
“This is a huge game, for both teams,” Maida said. “But it’s not about who we’re playing, this game, like all games, is about how we’re playing. That’s our approach to make sure we’re worrying about our game and how we’re playing.”
Saturday, Nelson hosts Golden Rockets at 7 p.m. in the NDCC Arena.
Golden, after making it to the second round last season is locked in the cellar of the Eddie Mountain Division with an 8-19-0-3 record.
BLUELINES: The Leafs had to reduce the roster to get down to the BC Hockey December 1 deadline of 25 cards. The reduction forced Nelson to trade 18-year-old winger Tyler Garcia to Kimberley Dynamiters for future considerations. In 26 games with Nelson, the Alaska native had seven goals and six assists. . . . Nelson was dealt a huge blow to the blueline when defenceman Austin Seaman suffered a leg injury during the loss to Fernie. The Calgary native was to see a specialist Thursday to determine the full extent of the injury. The Leafs will be using affiliate players from the Kootenay Ice to fill the void until a defenceman can be found through trade or BCHL cut. . . . Defenceman J.J. Beitel, who has been out of the lineup since October with a concussion, is expected to be back on the ice in the New Year according to coach Frank Maida.