Vlanich scores four to help Leafs snap two-game slide
Mid-season slumps have become all-too familiar to some players on the Nelson Leafs.
So after the Beaver Valley Nitehawks pounded the Leafs 7-3 Friday in Fruitvale, Nelson was in need of a stopper to halt the slide.
Veteran Jamie Vlanich proved to be that stopper as the Trail native scored four consecutive times to spark the Leafs to a 5-1 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League victory over the Golden Rockets Saturday at the NDCC Arena.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak, allowing Nelson to maintain the lead in the Murdoch Division.
Nelson, 23-4-1-3, leads second-place Beaver Valley by five points following weekend play.
“That was the big-bounce-back-game we needed,” said Leaf winger Alex Wilkinson, standing in for Vlanich during the post-game press conference.
“Everything came together for us. We played well in all parts of the game and played for a full 60 minutes.”
Nelson led 2-0 after one period on goals by Cole Arcuri and Vlanich, scoring his first of the game on the power play.
Vlanich then increased Nelson’s lead to 3-0 converting a pretty shorthanded marker before Matt McMath beat Tyler Moffat on the same power play.
Vlanich completed the hat-trick before the period ended, then added his fourth of the game on a pretty three-way passing play with Robson Cramer and the artist, Travis Wellman.
“Right from the get-go, we just came out flying,” Wilkinson explained when asked about the difference between Friday in Fruitvale and Saturday at home.
“We had possession of the puck the whole game . . . we kept getting shots and just took over the entire game.”
“We didn’t give (Golden) a sniff or anything,” Wilkinson added.
Nelson out shot the Rockets 15-3 in the opening frame. The Eddie Mountain team played the Leafs even on the shot counter for the rest of the contest, but Tyler Moffat was there to hold the fort.
Vlanich finished the game with five points while teammate Wellman added four assists.
Defencemen Darnell St. Pierre and Cramer each had two helpers.
Friday, Nelson fell behind 3-1 after one period, but rallied to pull to within a goal after 40 minutes as Wilkinson and Linden Horswill scored late in the frame.
However, two power play goals in the third by Dallas Calvin and Braden Fuller in just over a minute secured the win for the Hawks.
“I don’t know what happened,” Wilkinson expressed.
“It was a pretty close game going into the third and we just kind of lost it (mentally). We took a lot of penalties and they capitalized on the power play going four for six . . . those are huge special teams numbers.”
Nelson returns to the ice Thursday in Castlegar against the third-place Rebels, 16-12-1-3 in the first of a two-game home-and-home series.
Friday the series shifts back to the Heritage City as Nelson plays its final game before the Christmas break.
ICE CHIPS: Saturday’s breakout game for Jamie Vlanich snapped a two-game scoreless streak for the speedy center. Vlanich (19-37-56) jumps into third spot in KIJHL scoring, one points behind linemate Travis Wellman (34-25-59). . . . Nelson played the game against Golden with only five defenceman. Friday, to fill the blueline loss of Austin Seaman to a leg injury, Nelson called up Trevor Van Steinburg from the Kootenay Ice of the BC Major Midget Hockey League. The Ice lost 5-1 to Greater Vancouver Chiefs Saturday in Trail. . . . Friday, Beaver Valley received scoring from seven different players, with Ryan Edwards leading the points parade with three. Beaver Valley out shot the Leafs 44-27 in the game, including margins of 15-8 in the first period and 16-4 in the third. . . . Troy Petrich, with his second of the season, scored the other goal Friday for Nelson.